Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Hilary Scott
This weekend will be the first Labor Day weekend without the traditional, end-of-the-season Tanglewood Jazz Festival, which has been replaced with a string of pop and rock concerts – the return of Train with Andy Grammer and Mat Kearney at 7pm on Friday; Evanescence with Chevelle at 7pm on Saturday; and the Boston Pops Orchestra with Christine Ebersole, Betty Buckley and Michael Feinstein at 2:30pm on Sunday.
But don’t think that the folks at Tanglewood have abandoned their commitment to jazz. Instead of one big festival weekend, this year they spread some top-notch jazz concerts throughout the summer months, hosting individual concerts by Diana Krall, Chris Botti, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet and this past Sunday evening, the sparkling duo Chick Corea and Gary Burton.
It’s been four decades since pianist-composer Chick Corea and vibraphone virtuoso Gary Burton released their magnificent debut duet album, “Crystal Silence.” So it may have been safe to assume that their 40th anniversary tour would find the twosome reflecting on the past and cherry-picking nuggets from their back-catalog.
But Corea and Burton didn’t play it safe. And at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, their focus was on the future rather than the past.
In fact, they didn’t play a single selection from the landmark “Crystal Silence,” although they did open the evening with the decade-old “Love Castle,” a dazzling duet, which Corea introduced as “always a nice warm-up piece.” Of course, the performance was so much more than just a mere warm-up. It’s was a perfectly thrilling performance that underscored the empathetic, near-telepathic musical connection between these two jazz giants.
But for most of their first 50-minute set the twosome showcased selections from their upcoming “Hot House” album, due for release on Tuesday (September 4). It’s the duo’s first album of standards, and they covered a lot of “standards” ground, stretching from the slightly bluesy, sympatico stride-swing of Art Tatum’s “Can’t We Be Friends” to a scampering uptempo yet still melancholy rendition of the Beatles’ classic “Eleanor Rigby” to a scintillating, sun-kissed take on Jobim’s bossa nova gem, “Chega de Saudade.”
After the intermission Corea and Burton returned to the stage and upped the ante, adding the Harlem String Quartet to the piano/vibes variations. Since it was their first-ever performance with HS4, they leaned a bit heavier on the past, leading off with a couple of the opening movements from Corea’s “Lyric Suite for Sextet” and encoring with the lilting “Brasilia” from the same 1982 album. But they also dove headlong into “‘Round Midnight,” the strings adding considerable tonal depth and a sweeping, cinematic atmosphere to Thelonious Monk’s classic. And they brought it all home with another new Corea composition, the rumba groove of “Mozart Goes Dancing,” the only selection from “Hot House” that features the Harlem String Quartet.
Music of such grace and imagination is rare indeed, so if you have the opportunity to see the duo of Chick Corea and Gary Burton together in concert at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy on Wednesday, October 17, please don’t miss the chance. In fact, you should order your tix right now.
We’ll see you there…
CHICK COREA & GARY BURTON SET LIST
Can’t We Be Friends?
Chega de Saudade
(with Harlem String Quartet)
Mozart Goes Dancing
(with Harlem String Quartet)