“Eleanor Rigby” performed by Chick Corea and Gary Burton, to see the video click on the link Eleanor Rigby
I’m not a luddite. It’s just that I have lived through so many technological changes in the recording industry that I am ready to take a pause for a while. I have had 78s, vinyl, reel-to-reel, cassettes, discman (minidiscs) and CDs. I have successfully avoided the 8-track disaster and the more recent SDAC (Super Audio CD) format failure. I don’t own an iPod and for some unfathomable reason the format doesn’t interest me – maybe because I don’t like the micro earphones that are used to access the sound. My recording medium of choice for over 25 years is the CD. There is the great sound, the great selection of material and recordings that are not going to disappear with the press of the wrong button. Also I don’t have to spend time downloading material. However, having now taken a pause I am ready to move on and I concede that YOUTUBE is impacting my listening (viewing) habits. There are disadvantages to the media. In my instance I have to use a computer to access the videos but still that is working for me. I jump on the exercise bike and crank up some YOUTUBE videos. Erasing the boredom of riding an exercise bike is a distinct advantage for me. In addition to all first class performances there is all the music tutorial material out there (just check out all the stuff on playing Congas – amazing). For those interested in Jazz it seems that the Europeans have documented and continue to document all the important European Jazz Festivals. So an uninterrupted 60-120 minute video of some of the world’s greatest jazz performances is not unusual.
Having said all that, why this particular YOUTUBE selection? It is not necessarily the best or the brightest. It just happens to be the one I stumbled across this week. First of all “Eleanor Rigby” is a great tune by the Beatles. It is well known and for a “pop” tune it is in the unusual meter of 6/8. I do not know of any other “pop” tune in 6/8. In Irish/Celtic music it is the predominant rhythm and turns up in many dance tunes and traditional songs. One wonders if the Beatles, coming from Liverpool, were exposed to lots of Irish music in their youth. It might explain the melodic strength of their music. Now the performers in this instance are not “pop” musicians. They, dare I say it, are more than a step above the average “pop musician”. And the performance is not a standard jazz treatment – play the melody then mash it up until it is time to revisit the melody. It is a duo – piano and vibes – no bass, no drums – and it is a format these two master musicians have been polishing for over 40 years. Their first duet recording Crystal Silence was recorded and released on the ECM label in 1972 and subsequent duo recordings won Grammy Awards in 1979, 1981, 1997, 1999, 2009 and 2013. Chick Corea was not Gary`s only partner is the duo format. Gary also worked with the pianist Makoto Ozone and others, including, most notably, the guitarist Ralph Towner on the CDs Matchbook and Slide Show (two of my favorite recordings). Both Chick Corea and Gary Burton have been staples on the jazz scene for over forty years. Chick Corea is “an American jazz and fusion pianist, keyboardist, and composer”. Many of his compositions are considered jazz standards. As a member of Miles Davis’ band in the 1960s, he participated in the birth of the electric jazz fusion movement. In the 1970s he formed Return to Forever. Along with Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett, he has been described as one of the major jazz piano voices to emerge in the post-John Coltrane era (excepts from a Wikipedia entry). Gary Burton is a Vibes player (a juiced up xylophone) who was born with the gift of perfect pitch. He was performing as a professional at the age of eight, he joined the the Stan Getz Quartet when he was still in his teens shortly there after forming his own groups that included the likes of Pat Metheny and, of course, Chick Corea. There were other jazz vibes payers on the scene long before Gary strode onto the stage in short pants. Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson were the two noted vibes players of the earlier generation. Technically, what sets Gary apart from his predecessors is his four-mallet technique. Musically and visually it is astounding to see and hear him navigate the complexities of the music with incredible speed and agility using four mallets. He may not have been the first to use this technique but for every player that came after him there was no choice but to use four mallets. Music came easy to him and he gives lie to the saying “that those who can`t , teach“. Besides being a player of giant status he was an educator of the first order for over 30 years at the Berklee School. By his retirement he was a major administrator in the organization. All of that time he was in the fore front of jazz performance and this performance of Eleanor Rigby indicates that he is still at the top of his game.