Kronomyth 3.0: THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore: three sessions from three artists recorded in the waning days of winter62/3. It reminds me of those old baseball rookie cards, where you would find three players (two of them familiar) side by side, each name pregnant with promise. Of course, at this stage Clark Terry and Sonny Rollins were known quantities and a just-turned-twenty Gary Burton the lone unknown. Although Terry and Rollins had played together five years before on Sonny Rollins And The Big Brass, the two are worlds apart stylistically. The Ellington-schooled Terry is ballroom born and bred, joined by guitarist Kenny Burrell in a quintet/sextet setting that plays it straight and cool, from swing (“Blues Tonight”) to bossa nova (“When My Dreamboat Comes Home”). The four from Burton are also well-mannered numbers, including a pair of fresh originals from Burton (“Gentle Wind And Falling Tear”) and fellow Berklee alum Michael Gibbs (“Blue Comedy”), who later became the musical director for the BBC TV show, The Goodies (goody goody yum yum). It’s up to Sonny Rollins and trumpeter Don Cherry to stir things up with bold interpretations of “You Are My Lucky Star” and “I Could Write A Book” (their take on “There Will Never Be Another You” is more restrained). 3 In Jazz is a mixed bag and that was the original idea: to mix things up, maybe expose Rollins fans to Burton or Burton fans to Terry (as was the case with me). It’s obviously not the first album you need to hear from any of these artists, but if you’re looking for a reason to add it to your collection I can think of three.
The ECM albums are all of them ghosts, moving through the midwinter chill of Ludwigsburg, baronial and ethereal. This, the seventh since signing with the label in 1973, marks a slowing down of Burton’s breakneck recording pace. From here on, he would record only one new work a year. Like Tong Funeral before it and, more recently, “Vashkar” from Hotel Hello, Dreams So Real features the compositions of Carla Bley. Unlike the morbid, wordless opera of Tong, Dreams So Real is thoughtful, with a warm Latin current woven into the chill air, occasionally spiky but always smart. Dreams is otherwise notable for introducing a young guitarist by the name of Pat Metheny. Metheny and Mick Goodrick play 12-string and 6-string electric, respectively, giving the music a subtle but complex dual-guitar dimension underneath Burton’s mellifluous and piquant vibraphonery. Metheny already possesses his distinctively flanged sound, Goodrick is more articulated and agitated; you can hear their two styles side by side (sort of) in the solos from “Ictus” (Metheny) and “Syndrome” (Goodrick). Despite two guitarists, the session isn’t an axefest by any means. In fact, the real star doesn’t play a single note. Carla Bley’s compositions shine in this setting, moving with liquid grace in the title track and the surprisingly sentimental “Vox Humana.” A solo performance from Burton on “Jesus Maria” also provides a unique window into the elusive beauty of Bley’s compositions. Burton watchers will recognize the longstanding rhythm section of Bob Moses and Steve Swallow; the sere brushstrokes of Moses on the opening track are an inspired touch. Metheny fans may be disappointed to find their hero in an understated role here, but lovers of Burton and Bley will find much to linger over on Dreams So Real.
Kronomyth 38.0: STRINGS ATTACHED. Yet another collaboration with vibraphonist Gary Burton, this time with a conspicuous classical string quartet in tow. Lyric Suite For Sextet looks and sounds like an ECM record: cerebral, atmospheric, depressing, cold (which, I realize, is more of a progression than a list of qualities). It would be simple enough to dismiss this as so much notiness if it weren’t for passages in “Waltz” where the piano and vibraphone are sublime together, and the entirety of “Brasilia,” which is simply one of the prettiest melodies that Chick has ever recorded. The idea of Corea as a modern classical composer isn’t unthinkable; jazzical (or would it be clazzical?) music has existed since Ellington. But this music is of the noisy modern variety (think Frank Zappa), with an overuse of dramatic tension to fill in the spaces. The third and fourth movements, for example, seem like little more than protracted exclamation points to me (who, we’ve already established, is an authority on nothing). I’ve dusted this album off periodically over the years, mostly when I’m in the mood for a challenge, and usually end up playing “Brasilia” a few more times before putting the record back on the shelf for another year or two. It’s not the first, second, fifth, tenth Chick Corea album you need to own, and probably not the first Corea/Burton collaboration you need either (Crystal Silence would seem the logical choice). And yet I’m rather protective of these exotic animals in my musical bestiary. We say we come to the look at the lions, but stare longest at the animals that are strangest.