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Listening to: Chick Corea & Hiromi Uehara, Duet

Chick and Hiromi Duet

Cascading, effervescent, energetic, virtuoso, surprising, accomplished. You’d need a stream of adjectives to describe how these two play together. An easier way to say it might be to think of four hands attached, somehow, to the same brain. An orchestra of pianos, perfectly conducted by a single musical mind. This record is the result of

1 night, 2 pianos, 2 sets, 4 hands, 12 songs, 20 fingers, 176 keys, about 600 people in the audience and thousands of ideas exchanging between the two pianists and the audience,

…as Chick Corea says in his liner notes. It’s certainly showy – these are two seasoned jazz pianists, and their technical skills are impeccable. Chick Corea needs no introduction (Miles Davis, Return to Forever). Hiromi Uehara, a month away from being 30 years old, is a Japanese piano Wunderkind – trained at Berklee College of Music and known for her energetic live performances with the Hiromi Uehara Trio. Corea says he found her playing inspirational and suggested they record a set of duets together.

If you spend any amount of time listening to this, though, the showiness becomes less important, and the music speaks clearly. Full of delightful subtleties, surprises and curve balls, Corea and Uehara both hold each performance down tightly while challenging each other in a what-else-can-you-do-with-that kind of way. The program is mostly jazz and pop standards, well known material, but, as with any jazz improvisation, the pleasure is in the moment of surprise, and in how the moments, together, form a lasting musical whole. Each tune’s lines are beautifully concluded, and nothing is allowed to ‘fizz out’ in the din of improvisation.

Instead of discussing it more, here are two Youtube clips of Hiromi and Chick playing:

If you have a chance to hear the CD, you should.

What I can’t quite figure out is whether they practiced before performing, and how much. With this level of musicianship, it’s entirely possible that very little was rehearsed and agreed beforehand. One guesses that they shared creating the setlist at least (hard to imagine that one would kick off a tune and have the other guess what it is). Either way, once you’ve absorbed the pyrotechnics a bit, this is quite a transcendent musical treat.

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