In the 40 years that pianist Chick Corea has been collaborating with vibraphonist Gary Burton, not much has changed from a creative standpoint.
The two jazz legends released their seventh duet album, “Hot House,” in March of this year. The album focuses on standards ranging from Thelonious Monk’s “Light Blue” to The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” a change from the duo’s past albums that focused primarily on Corea’s original material. The two have obviously played standards before (Corea is known for writing his share of standards, most notably “Spain” from the 1972 Reteurn to Forever album “Light as a Feather), although never together.
But while the material is always new, the way the two musicians approach it remains the same each time they collaborate.
“We’ve maintained a very lighthearted, fun musical rapport, so that when we get together, it’s always creative and there’s not a lot of stress on it,” Corea said recently from his hotel room in Ottawa, before playing the first night of the duo’s North American tour in support of “Hot House.”
“I do a lot of my own projects, and Gary has his own band, so when we come together, we go into this zone of the way we like to play together. And Gary has always appreciated and enjoyed playing my compositions, and I enjoy writing for the duet, so that’s another perk for me in playing with the duet. I get to write music for us, or arrange the music usually, and it just kind of keeps rolling. We never sat down and said, ‘OK, what do you want to do in the next five years?’ We don’t think like that.”
When the duo performs at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Wednesday night, audiences can expect this same free-flowing improvisation that the duo has been honing since their first collaboration, 1971’s “Crystal Silence.”
Chick Corea and Gary Burton
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 2nd St., Troy
How Much: $65, $48, $38, $25
More Info: 273-0038, www.troymusichall.org
While the Music Hall show will just be the stripped down piano-vibraphone duo, most of the tour features the Harlem String Quartet, which played on “Hot House’s” only Corea composition, “Mozart Goes Dancing.”
“You’ll get the full effect of the duet — most of the new record and the new music we put together is just the duet,” Corea said.
Whenever Corea and Burton perform, they always dig deep into their past, pulling selections from all their collaborative albums, and this show will be no different.
“We’re always dipping into some of the older material, just to loosen the show up,” Corea said. “We always tend to return to some pieces we really enjoy playing from the earlier repertoire. We even go back to the first album we did together, ‘Crystal Silence,’ so it’s a mix. And we’ll definitely play a good bit of the new music, the new ‘Hot House’ music.”
“Hot House” was inspired by both Corea and Burton’s shared musical experiences from the 1960s, when the two were first starting out. In those days, Corea was working in New York City, both solo and backing musicians ranging from Cab Calloway (his first professional gig) to Miles Davis (he replaced Herbie Hancock in Davis’ group in 1968). Burton, fresh out of Berklee College of Music in 1961, went on to play in the Stan Getz Quartet.
“Both of us are musical children of the ’60s, sort of — we came up in the post-bebop era with people like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Horace Silver,” Corea said. “We’d both played standards before, but we’d never tried to explore that area together. It was a nice opportunity to do something fresh, so we chose these various songs from our favorite composers, and I put it into arrangements that I thought suited the duet format.”
The recording process also maintained the duo’s favored loose feel — most of the record was tracked at Corea’s home studio in Florida, with the exception of “Mozart Goes Dancing,” which was recorded in New York City. “We record wherever, however,” Corea said. “My good friend Bernie Kirsh has been my main recording engineer since 1975 — he comes on tour with us. He’s a real artist, and he makes every situation work.”
Live and in person
In fact, at this point Corea prefers the spontaneity of live recording over studio work — his previous album with Burton, “The New Crystal Silence,” was taken from 2007 live shows in Australia, Norway and Spain.
“In the studio you can focus more on technical details or a particular sound you may want — you can try things over and over again, you can do a lot of things technically in a studio because you don’t have an audience,” Corea said.
“What you lose is that incredible spontaneity and freshness and brightness of live performance, where you’re just zipping through, which to me is more the spirit of jazz. More and more these days I actually prefer to deliver the audience a good recording of a good live performance that has all the spirit of the music contained in it.”
Given the impact the Internet has had on physical record sales, Corea prefers to focus on his live show anyway.
“What’s most interesting to me is what hasn’t changed, and will never change, has never changed — that process of communication between an artist and an audience that’s live, in front of them,” Corea said. “That particular communication will remain constant, and I base everything I do on a live connection with the audience.”