Gary Burton/Chick Corea – Crystal Silence – ECM Records 

Gary Burton/Chick Corea – Crystal Silence ECM Records 1024 ST (1972/2018) (distr. by Universal Music Group) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 44:23 *****:

This vinyl reissue of a Gary Burton/Chick Corea duo recording is stunning!

(Gary Burton – vibes; Chick Corea – piano)

ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) Records was founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969. At the core of the label is the array of jazz artists including Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Chick Corea,, Charlie Haden, John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett, Dave Liebman, Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek, Eberhard Weber, Egberto Gismonti and Terje Rypdal, Although, these are renowned jazz artists, the label provided a creative environment for musical genre-expansion. In addition, ECM is celebrated for groundbreaking releases in Western Classical,  Global Music and a variety of film-related projects. The ECM reputation for pristine recording is represented by their motto, “The Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence”. They have earned Downbeat’s Label Of The Year 10 times.

The superior recording technology is evident in both analog and digital formats. Now, ECM is continuing the tradition of prestigious analog recording with 180-gram releases. That includes several re-issues of notable albums. One of these is the unforgettable Gary Burton/Chick Corea collaboration, Crystal Silence. First recorded in 1972 and produced by Eicher, the session was completed in a single day at Arne Bendiksen Studio (Oslo Norway). Initially, the expectations for commercial success were underwhelming, but the album has evolved into a long-term success for ECM. Burton and Corea developed a lifetime creative partnership, due to the innate creative dynamics and complementary instrumental style. Side 1 opens with the jaunty “Señor Mouse”. The combination of Corea’s prominent chording and Burton’s harmonic vibraphone is enticing. Burton assumes lead before a quasi-classical (some describe this music as chamber jazz) break. The duo alternates with unison and counters. Corea executes some upper register trills and the cooled down vibe ending is effective. “Arise Her Eyes” delves into a waltz-time signature with a tango-like undercurrent. There is an intriguing piano interlude with Burton adding graceful accents. What also stands out (on all of the tracks) are moments of “silence” that further illustrate the fresh, straightforward recording aesthetics.

Approximating more traditional jazz, I’m Your Pal” exudes whimsical balladry. Burton’s notation is flawless and Corea’s elegant, sophisticated runs  include a nimble touch of blues. On “Desert Air”, the listener is struck by the complicated, precise tempo and modulations of intensity. There is an unexpected medium-swing break. Both instrumentalists blend perfectly and create a full ensemble texture with their uncanny  abilities to impart chords and individual notes. Near the end, there seems to be a brief snippet of “Take Five” The title cut’s  instrumental prowess is fluent and potent. At 9 minutes it is the longest number on the album, and perhaps the most consequential. The meditative piano intro is delicate and there is a supple transition to Burton’s atmospheric lines. While the studio engineering is organic, there is a decent amount of echo and reverberation on the vibes, as well as the piano. Corea’s solos bring an ethereal melancholy with swirling twills and jazzy nuance. Buton’s solo is achingly lyrical with tender eloquence.

The rest of the side is more succinct. “Falling Grace’ is is an energetic and at times, furious duet that accomplishes a lot in 2:37. Switching to “spacey” ambiance, “Feelings And Things” is adventurous. with both harmony and dissonance. There is a stellar loud sustain on vibraphone that is compelling. Corea has an affinity for composers like Bela Bartok and in particular his Mikrokosmos Series. “Children’s Song” (which would later be included in Corea’s 1983 homage to Bartok) is a gem. With a steady left-hand pulsating bass and right-hand single notes, Chick and Gary (shadowing the melody) are cohesive and sprightly in an economical two-minute piece. The finale (“What Game Shall We Play Today”) is as rhythmic and festive as classic Vince Guaraldi. The subtle classical/jazz timing is unique to this legendary duo.         

The overall sound quality of this 180-gram vinyl is superb. The volume levels on both the piano and vibraphone increase and decrease with restrained precision. The deft mic placement manages to capture the glow of the vibes and the crispness of the piano without excessive

studio effects. Having quality source engineering is crucial. This specific pressing  was devoid of any surface noises, hisses or pops. There is a digital download that is also excellent. The original photo work (Hans Paysan) and cover design (B & B Wojirsch) are eye-catching.

TrackList:
Side 1: Señor Mouse; Arise Her Eyes; I’m Your Pal; Desert Air
Side 2: Crystal Silence; Falling Grace; Feeling And Things; Children’s Song; What Game Shall We Play Today

—Robbie Gerson

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