THE RECORDS CHICK COREA -- Delphi I, Polydor PD-1-6208. GARY BURTON/ CHICK COREA -- Duet, ECM-1-1140.
Any musical artist will over the course of a career experiment with several modes and styles. It is done for reasons that range from emotional and intellectual to economic -- a trio is a lot easier to book into a small club than a big band. Sometimes it makes it easier to cash in on a big name. Even Kiss took a year off to do "solo" projects.
Jazz musicians are always coming up with different strokes and different folks; one who has worked with just about every possible lineup is keyboardist Chick Corea.
Corea has solo albums ("Piano Improvisation, Volumes I and II"), duets ("Crystal Silence"), trios ("A.R.C."), quartets ("CIRCULUS"), fusion bands ("Return to Forever"), big bands ("My Spanish Heart"), and just about any other lineup that a player might work with. Even more impressive, over the years, Corea has established himself as proficient enough to handle all these chores and more. So it is no great surprise that he has recently released two new records, a solo piano album and a set of duets with vibraphonist Gary Burton.
Corea's albums tend to reflect both his musical and spiritual states. He is a deeply committed Scientologist; the albums, "Delphi I" and "Duet" (with Gary Burton), were recorded in the same week in October 1978 at Scientology's Delphian School in Oregon.
The albums provide contrasts and comparisons that show Corea the person as well as Corea the musician in fresh perspective. Since he is no stranger to either solo or duet recordings, and since his general work is so well known, one must apply different standards to these efforts.
In that context, "Delphi I" is stronger emotionally. The love and harmony that Corea obviously experiences at the Delphian School are apparent throughout Side 1. Each piece is brief but quite strong, and imbued with an inner peace that transcends mere piano technique.
Side 2 of "Delphi I" grows out of Corea's love for the late Art Tatum. The improvisations are a bit more stride-oriented and the pieces seem slightly less formulated. Side 2 lacks a bit of the inspirational fervor of Side 1, but does seem to "jump" a bit more.
As for "Duet" there is no way that Corea could convey to another player the stimulation he receives from his surroundings. Not to fault Gary Burton, who is in his usual master's form and shows flashes of the genius he and Corea displayed on 1972's "Crystal Silence."
The music on "Duet" is a bit more structured and less inspired than "Delphi I," but then it isn't easy for any duet album to rev up a heavy head of steam.
Still, Burton and Corea seemed to accomplish more power with less full arrangements on "Crystal Silence."
The interplay between two musicians is impeccable, and it is obvious that it is as comfortable for them to play together as alone. The underlying problem of "Duet" (which was recorded first) is that Corea may not have been able to get Burton on the same emotional plane as himself and had to slightly temper his expression.
Not that "Duet" is a bad album. For musicianship and imagination it is all one can expect from two of America's finest artists.
As for "Delphi I," there is more here than meets the ear. Though some may find it inferior to Corea's earlier and less cause-oriented "Piano Improvisations Volumes I & II" it is clear that this is the work of an able, sincere and devoted man.
Corea has scheduled the release of two more volumes of the "Delphi I" solo improvisations. There is no word on any future Corea/Burton Delphi recordings. That may indicate something.