Chick Corea and Gary Burton

The development of modern jazz follows many roads -- highways, byways, and deadends. In concert at Symphony Hall last Saturday, pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton explored them all. Some, like Burton's gloriously harmonious solo of "Blame It on My Youth," stretched smoothly back to the old standards. Others, like the highly logical "Isfahan" (a Corea composition for piano, vibes, and string quartet), drove fearlessly into a cocophonous cul-de-sacwith no visible way forward.

But the centerpiece of the evening, Corea's "Lyric Suite for Sectet" (also for piano, vibes, and strings), was a tour de force for its composer's love of elusive rhythms. These six pieces, ranging from the dramatic and almost pointillist "Overture" through the full-bodied chords of "Sketch," climaxed with "Brasilia," an ineffably tender peice so fully realized that one wants to hear it again and again.

In the end, however, it was the extraordinary rapport between Corea and Burton that made it all possible. In two encores (minus the strings, which had played with flawless delight) they brought the house whistling to its feet -- proving, perhaps, that however much a jazzman may long to be a "composer," the best compositions don't need writing down.

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