Chick Corea is not only a highly imaginative and prolific recording artist, but the world-renowned pianist also loves to walk the tight wire without a net. His latest project of jazz daring-so is Duet, a two-CD live performance with up-and-coming pianist Hiromi, recorded live in 2007 at the Blue Note in Tokyo.
Duet is a masterwork of remarkable pianists of two different generations and cultures who transcend all boundaries to converse with each other with an exuberance and passion. The first CD features an original by each pianist (Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” treated to a new rowdy rendering of skips, scrambles and nimble tumbles, and Hiromi’s “Déja Vu” brought to a higher tier with the duo imagining new twists and turns) as well as four covers, including tunes by Bill Evans (“Very Early”), Thelonious Monk (“Bolivar Blues”), Antonio Carlos Jobim (“How Insensitive”) and Lennon-McCartney (“Fool on the Hill”). On CD No. 2, each pianist brings to the set two originals (Corea: “Windows” and “Do Mo: Children’s Song #12”; Hiromi Uehara: “Place to Be” and “Old Castle”). They also cover “Summertime” with a reharmonized beauty and adventurously meld Joaquin Vidre Rodrigo’s classic “Concierto de Aranjuez” with one of Corea’s best-known tunes, “Spain.” The performance is so exhilaratingly rhythmic that the crowd claps in glee while the two pianists captivate on the keys. The music features pockets of spiraling dance and torrid zigzagging as well as teems with gentle lyricism and sublime wonderment. It’s no wonder that Duet, originally released in Japan in 2007 on Universal, became the top-selling jazz album of the year there. It also marked for Corea his first acoustic-piano duo performance since he and Herbie Hancock recorded their classic In Concert 1978 album live at Tokyo’s Budokan.
Because Duet soared in popularity, Corea and Hiromi decided to meet again—this time not in the intimate confines of a club, but at the outdoor Budokan stadium. Writing on his website, Corea said, “It was wild to see 5,500 people in attendance for the piano duet with Hiromi, the brilliant, young Japanese pianist and composer. Our three days at the Tokyo Blue Note became the double CD…and the interest [in it] seemed to warrant a try at a larger audience.” Corea continued: “I wasn’t sure how an audience that large in a venue that sprawling would receive our duet, which was conceived as an intimacy, largely improvised and for a jazz-wise public. Well, what a surprise when the audience calmly and appreciatively took in the almost two-hour concert with great interest and standing-ovation approval. I was so happy to see that this could happen in this day and age, and then thought, ‘Well, the Japanese have such an artistic culture.’”