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Chick & Hiromi: Duet

Prepare to be astounded by the awe-inspiring talents of two virtuosos who musically know no bounds and gracefully glide back and forth on their respective pianos to create the most eloquent form of improvisation and song exploration possible. The album is Duet, and it features a guy by the name of Chick Corea (you might have heard of him) alongside Hiromi Uehara, a young, fresh-faced female jazz sensation who is gaining a mammoth reputation as a composer, performer, and improviser. Having these two musicians work as counterparts in a live performance setting is a master lesson in musical shading, subtlety, and critical listening. When you hear this album, you realize Hiromi and Chick never try to compete with each other. Instead, they use their shared stage as a platform to create lyrical, expressive interpretations of many familiar tunes, choosing only the most appropriate moments to become bouncy and boisterous. Duet is built upon the fundamental idea that you never reveal all your tricks at once, and both musicians are keen to let the mood and direction of the composition dictate what is appropriate in any given spot, making sure their musical interplay retains balance and room to breathe.

Recorded at Tokyo's Blue Note Jazz Club in September of 2007, there's a definite feeling of warmth and intimacy bubbling out of this recording. Corea describes Blue Note as "the most comfortable jazz club in the world," so it goes without saying that both players are mentally relaxed and musically invigorated by their surroundings. With an intimate audience numbering around 600 people, this was actually the second time onstage together for these two (the first was an appearance at the Tokyo Jazz Festival in 2006). The set list contained on Duet is a nice hodgepodge of musical snapshots that work very well in confluence with one another. The show opens with a lively take on Bill Evans' "Very Early," followed by the beautiful Jobim/Moraes composition "How Insensitive." Other standouts include a majestic seven minute take on The Beatles' "Fool On The Hill," a wild delivery of Thelonius Monk's "Bolivar Blues" (full of the dissonant harmonies and off-the-wall melodic twists that became Monk trademarks), and a spunky reimagining of Gershwin's "Summertime." Three original works by Hiromi Uehara are highlighted as well; all fitting comfortably within the more well-worn pieces, showing that she's truly an inspired and gifted composer. Just listen to the fingerwork on display in her tune "Old Castle, by the River, in the Middle of a Forest." Clocking in at fifteen minutes, the song is a masterful study in the discipline of combining jazz soloing with ferocious speed, strict accuracy, and wonderful melodicism. A highlight of the album for sure, by the end of the track you'll be speechless and shaking your head in amazement. Plenty of Corea fare is featured too, from his ever-popular "Spain" to the more obscure 1978 track "Humpty Dumpty." Tracks like "Humpty" and "Bolivar Blues" are less harmonious on the ears, jangling with a jubilant dissonance and crashing in with occasional flurries of notes that sound as pleasant as a car horn.

Wrapping up, Duet might have it's fair share of quick runs, frantic phrasings, and swirling rhythms, but nestled within all of that is something deeper. It's the art of two pianists truly listening to one another, feeding off their creativity, and playing to the moment. This record is hands-down a joyful musical union, flush with variety, yet unafraid to challenge the listener in spots. Whether your jazz sensibilities are light and airy or more raw and angular, there's a little something for everyone to feast on. Virtuosity is a given, but it lies within the subtext. What remains at the forefront is a simple yet musically satisfying sentiment: two equal counterparts playing amazing counterpoint.

Track Listing:

  1. Very Early
  2. How Insensitive
  3. Déjà Vu
  4. Fool on the Hill
  5. Humpty Dumpty
  6. Bolivar Blues
  7. Windows
  8. Old Castle, by the River, in the Middle of a Forest
  9. Summertime Place to Be
  10. Do Mo (Children's Song #12)
  11. Concierto de Aranjuez/Spain

Added: April 5th 2009
Reviewer: Keith Schwier
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 2383
Language: english

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