Jazz vibraphone giant Gary Burton isn't exactly sure why people want to keep hearing him play duets in concert with jazz piano giant Chick Corea.
But why does a world championship chess match draw big crowds? It is kind of the same thing.
Sitting in the presence of vibrant brain power being created on the spot can be an intense experience. Through 40 years of playing these duets, with at least one tour every year, the jazz conversations between Burton and Corea have become a unique musical treasure that keeps renewing itself in the jazz world.
This onstage conversation will continue Saturday downtown at the Fox Theatre, courtesy of UApresents.
"There is definitely a magic to it that we feel playing together," Burton said on the phone from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "And I believe the audience responds to that magic, too.
"Our audience for these duet concerts is unique," the vibist continued. "It isn't my usual audience or Chick's usual audience. It is something else entirely. It seems like more of a crossover audience from both classical and jazz.
"The duet does get booked a lot by chamber music groups. I think it's because we don't work with a rhythm section and the music we play isn't loud."
Actually, what has sustained this jazz-classical audience over four decades is the consistent intelligence of Burton and Corea in their musical discussions.
"No one understands the idiosyncrasies of my improvising the way Chick does," Burton has said. "We have always had an immediate connection, like two people who speak the same obscure language. Right from the beginning, in 1972, we could always anticipate each other's ideas with surprising accuracy."
To Burton, their interplay is actually more than a conversation.
"Normally in a conversation, one person must stop talking so the other person can talk," Burton said. "But in a duet, each of us can keep playing. The conversation is continuous."
While both men have maintained exceptional careers as virtuoso soloists since the 1960s, Corea does have the higher profile and the most Grammy awards - 18 to be exact.
In 2011 Corea's acoustic trio double-CD "Forever," recorded with bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, won Grammys for Best Improvised Jazz Solo and Best Jazz Instrumental Album.
Last year "Forever" was also the Latin Grammy Award winner for Best Instrumental Album.
In the mix with two Grammy nominations of its own is the newest CD of duets with Corea and Burton, "Hot House," which will have a featured spot in Saturday's concert. The duo will be on stage alone together for two complete sets.
"We never play exactly the same show twice," said Burton. "But lately we've always been opening with 'Love Castle' (from the 1997 album "Native Sense: New Duets"). And we close with 'Mozart Goes Dancing' from the new CD. The music in the middle we'll pick the day of the concert."
IF YOU GO
• What: A concert of duets with vibraphonist Gary Burton and pianist Chick Corea.
• Presented by: UApresents.
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
• Tickets: $50, with discounts available.
• Reservations, information: 621-3341, www.uapresents.org