Gary Burton / Makoto Ozone

Virtuosi

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This CD features Gary Burton's vibes and Makoto Ozone's piano in ten classical duos with jazz improvisations. The two styles have never merged with more soul, spirit, or, well, virtuosity, and the material is rich and varied enough to please fans of both. It begins with one of Maurice Ravel's most popular compositions, Le Tombeau de Couperin, which in these masterful hands sparkles as it flows, reminding listeners why Ravel's harmonies inspired so many jazz musicians. The collection includes a thunderous Rachmaninoff prelude leavened with swing and a Latin feel, a Brazilian take on Brahms, the lush and passionate tango "Milonga," a gorgeous, extended medley from the opera Lakme with a familiar second part (arranged by Jay Kennedy, who worked on four of the tracks here), and a Samuel Barber gem where it's hard to tell the original from the improvisation. There are two beauties by George Gershwin, whose 1924 "Rhapsody in Blue" first collapsed the wall between jazz and classical music; Burton and Ozone add new bluesiness to his "Prelude No. 2" and comment brilliantly on his "Piano Concerto in F." On Sonata K20, they soften Scarlatti's starchy edges with sensuous Latin figures. In yet another pleasing segue -- this CD is very well-paced -- this is followed by a rare "Impromptu," all shifting, Debussy-like pastels until Ozone introduces some barrelhouse piano. The closer is Ozone's quiet, haunting "Something Borrowed, Something Blue," which was inspired by the project itself. Burton and Ozone produce a fulsome, totally satisfying sound, and their fluidity and grace are astonishing. Burton's extensive notes explain the selections and approach to each piece, deepening the experience. A stunning accomplishment, and highly recommended.

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