Crystal Silence

Chick Corea & Gary Burton

From a repertoire perspective, Crystal Silence sets the direction for all of Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s ECM recordings. With the exception of Michael Gibbs’ dark-hued ballad, “Feelings and Things,” everything is either written by Corea or Burton’s (at that time) longtime musical partner, bassist Steve Swallow.

The opening “Señor Mouse” also sets high expectations for what was to follow: instant evidence of a duo whose chordal instruments not only don’t get in each other’s way, but which mesh into a mini-orchestra of sorts, covering three essential components—melody, harmony/accompaniment and rhythm—while seamlessly tossing them around like a kind of musical tag-team. Most athletic teams work with a fixed plan, however; Corea and Burton (despite unequivocally operating with structured and often highly detailed music) shift responsibilities amongst themselves, often with real-time spontaneity. The result is music that may be of a chamber jazz variety, and certainly goes to gentler places, but is equally capable of terrific energy and excitement.

Corea contributes two tunes that had already been heard on Return to Forever, an album that signaled a significant directional shift for the pianist away from more challenging music with Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul in the much-lauded group Circle. Despite the absence of bassist Stanley Clarke, saxophonist Joe Farrell, percussionist Airto and singer Flora Purim from Return to Forever, the duet’s version of Corea’s bright “What Game Shall We Play Today” closes Crystal Silence on an equally joyous note, with piano and vibraphone orbiting around each other, coming together in buoyant unison and veering off into individual solos that prove it’s possible to be both virtuosic and eminently accessible. The nine-minute title track is the definitive version: unencumbered by the constraints of a larger ensemble, Corea and Burton create a soundscape of remarkable beauty and depth, one filled with nuance, as the subtle interaction of two come together with the singular intent of one.

Corea and Burton also turn in definitive versions of Swallow’s “Arise, Her Eyes,” a song that manages to swing as much through implication as direct pulse, the balladic “I’m Your Pal,” where hints of gospel peak through its more sophisticated changes, and the livelier “Falling Grace” where, in under three minutes, the duo interweaves with the kind of effortless perfection that imbues Crystal Silence with such flawless elegance. Despite plenty of spots where Corea and Burton shine individually, it’s their empathic interaction throughout the entire album that raised the bar for all duet recordings to follow.

— AllAboutJazz

Album Tracks

  1. Señor Mouse
  2. Arise, Her Eyes
  3. I'm Your Pal
  4. Desert Air
  5. Crystal Silence
  6. Falling Grace
  7. Feeling and Things
  8. Children's Song
  9. What Game Shall We Play Today