After 30 years of shared recordings – seven duet albums, four of them Grammy Award winners – Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s partnership is one of jazz’s most established. Hot House, their latest effort, continues their familiar, still-brilliant approach, mixing jazz standards and pop songs. But with such inventive jazz upstarts as vibraphonists Chris Dingman and Jason Adasiewicz, and pianists Guillermo Klein, Jason Lindner, and John Clayton, nipping at this aging duo’s heels, Hot House occasionally sounds like it was intended for the concert hall, not the titular jazz hothouse.
Corea and Burton perform superbly throughout, beginning with “Can’t We Be Friends,” a jaunty gallop through a familiar Frank Sinatra swinger. The pair covers two Jobim songs, “Chega de Saudade” and “Once I Loved,” the Brazilian composer’s lusciously rhythmic material suiting the duo’s perfect alignment of chordal sophistication and dazzling delivery. Corea and Burton truly play as one, trading harmony and solo roles with simpatico mastery. Bill Evans’s “Time Remembered” unfurls gently, thoughtfully, Burton’s solo particularly iridescent. But when the title track finally hits, you realize what the bulk of Hot House is missing: heat! The only up-tempo bebop song on an album named for a Tadd Dameron standard, “Hot House” is gritty and rollicking, waking you from the beautiful stupor of slow to mid tempo songs that, while expertly performed, lack the stomp, energy and fire that would have invigorated Hot House. Let’s hope Corea and Burton revisit the Hot House theme, and include more of the bebop that inspired the song’s composer, next time around.