From the archives

Geoffrey Smith on a ret­ro­spec­tive of the daz­zling and dar­ing Amer­i­can vi­bra­phon­ist Gary Bur­ton

BBC Music Magazine - - Jazz -

Gary Bur­ton is the com­plete jazz pro­fes­sional. In an art no­to­ri­ous for its pre­car­i­ous life style, his ca­reer of­fers shin­ing proof that it’s pos­si­ble, in the mu­si­cians’ phrase, to ‘take care of busi­ness’, and com­bine creativ­ity, re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mit­ment at the high­est level. Daz­zling vi­bra­phone soloist, leader, ed­u­ca­tor, he was still at the top of his game when in 2017 he capped a life­time of achievemen­t by an­nounc­ing his re­tire­ment, bid­ding farewell to his pro­fes­sion with a grand vale­dic­tory tour. And now Take An­other Look: A Ca­reer Ret­ro­spec­tive (Mack Av­enue MAC1128) doc­u­ments the full range of his mu­si­cal ac­com­plish­ment in a mag­nif­i­cent five-lp vinyl set.

Burst­ing on the scene as an un­nerv­ingly pre­co­cious 17-yearold, Bur­ton made his name as a side­man with Ge­orge Shear­ing and Stan Getz, then launched his own quar­tet, a joy­ous crew fus­ing jazz with rock, folk and coun­try in a cap­ti­vat­ing mix which made the Bur­ton band one of the cut­ting-edge sounds of the ’60s. Their de­but al­bum Duster still sounds fresh as paint, and Gary’s elite line-up of gui­tarist Larry Co­ryell, bassist Steve Swal­low and drum­mer Roy Haynes an­tic­i­pates a life-time of em­i­nent al­liances, in­clud­ing key­board stars Keith Jar­rett and, above all, Chick Corea, whose bril­liant duo part­ner­ship with Bur­ton over al­most half a cen­tury is well rep­re­sented.

Gui­tar icon Pat Metheny is an­other cut­ting-edge Bur­ton ally, and this rich ret­ro­spec­tive also in­cludes some un­ex­pected part­ner­ships – Gary’s en­counter with vi­o­lin leg­end Stephane Grap­pelli, for in­stance, and a live meet­ing with tango supremo As­tor Pi­az­zolla. And among this stel­lar com­pany, Bur­ton’s own vir­tu­os­ity re­tains its sig­nal lus­tre, epit­o­mised by his stun­ning, Grammy-win­ning al­bum for un­ac­com­pa­nied vi­bra­phone, Alone at Last, a solo tour de force of peer­less dex­ter­ity and in­ven­tion.

But there have been Gram­mys aplenty adorn­ing Bur­ton’s re­mark­able ca­reer. More im­por­tant, as this ret­ro­spec­tive shows, is the qual­ity of his mu­si­cal pres­ence, what he’s achieved and, in his words, what ‘I want to be re­mem­bered for’.

The great­est jazz play­ers and their mu­sic are ex­plored in Geoffrey Smith’s Jazz, a weekly pro­gramme broad­cast on Satur­days from 12am-1am

Licks with sticks: Bur­ton pictured here in 1968

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