BBC Music Magazine

From the archives

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


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
Licks with sticks: Burton pictured here in 1968
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