Holy cow! Is it really 35 years since these two jazz giants first came together on the seminal album, The Crystal Silence? Despite their considerable achievements before and since this pairing clearly gives them both a buzz and a deep satisfaction that sees them still wanting to collaborate, which they have continued to do intermittently ever since.
So, what's with The New Crystal Sessions and how can it be relevant 35 years after their first version? Surely Corea, in particular, has always been about forging ahead, discovering new expressions and facets of himself and his (incredible) technique?
The first cd of this double set shows one spectacular way as to how relevant they can still be. It was recorded at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony and features new arrangements of compositions written by Corea for their earlier albums. A special mention is given in the notes to the orchestrations of British saxophonist, Tim Garland, of whom Corea says "Tim has a special genius for orchestrating". Whether it is his genius, or that of the two main protagonists, it works.
Never once do the piano of Corea or the unique four hammer playing of Burton become overwhelmed by the might of the orchestra. Rather, the two instruments retain complete primacy of melody whilst being fleshed out and reinforced by the intriguing arrangements. This is not to say that there is no power from the orchestra - there is some bombast and oomph here too - but it is there for context, and to provide a framework for the arpeggio runs of Corea or the flying hammers of Burton. From the opening track Brasilia to the title track (itself a re-version of Corea's original from the 1972 Return To Forever album) and on through epic versions of La Fiesta, Duende and Love Castle, the soloing is incendiary and introspective - exactly as when they first recorded together.
On cd 2 their playing together is still simply incredible. Without any extra instrumentation or adornment they blast through a stunning set of 8 songs from their collaborative past. Recorded at the Molde Jazz Festival, apart from the classic Senor Mouse, which was recorded in Tenerife, this is a masterclass in playing for and with each other. The technique is predictably stellar, but it is in the sublime understanding of mood and flow that these two really show a clean pair of heels to most other groups. The intensity rises and falls, is danced around and embraced time and again as they guide the listener through such classics as I Love You Porgy, La Fiesta (so different but the equal to the orchestral version), Bud Powell and Alegria.
The original album was essential listening then. The new double album of orchestra and duo is the same but differently so. Older but not staid, these guys have done it again. --Guy Hayden
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