New Burton Quartet found it easy to get the right vibe
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 6:13 p.m.
Vibraphone master Gary Burton still has the sharp eye for “eager, young, inventive minds” that has kept his bands lively and creative for decades.
He is celebrating his 70th birthday by going on tour with what he is calling the New Gary Burton Quartet, which harkens back to the quartets of the past and great members such as Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Steve Swallow.
“It keeps you from getting in a rut,” he says about finding players such as guitarist Julian Lage and drummer Antonio Sanchez, who will be with him Oct. 5 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.
Burton's appreciation for talent seems an appropriate skill for a musician whose just-released autobiography is titled “Learning to Listen” (Berklee Press, $27.99). In it, he talks about hearing and learning from many people over decades of play. That ability was honed by 30 years as a teacher and ultimately as executive director of the jazz-oriented Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I always felt being around a college was a great learning environment for students as well as teachers,” he says. “When you have to explain something to someone else, it makes you understand it better.”
Understanding music never has seemed a problem for Burton, who has been playing vibes since he was 6 and performing since his teens. In doing so, he has changed his styles and moved through the development of jazz. In the late ‘60s, for instance, his band with guitarist Larry Coryell was among the early groups to use the rhythms and tones of rock in jazz.
He also has played with other jazz giants such as saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist George Shearing. Regardless of the band or its personnel, his playing always has been crisp and inventive, filled with speed and a virtuoso's richness of thought.
His appreciation of individual play has meant his groups have changed tone over the years. The work of current guitarist Lage is far different from that of Coryell; at times, it resembles that of Metheny, but is different from his work, too.
Burton has been watching — and listening — to Lage since the guitarist was 12, he says, and suspects Lage will be one of the music's dominant players as his career moves forward.
But he also talks with great enthusiasm about Sanchez, whom he says he didn't appreciate until the drummer started working with Metheny. That work helped create a style that was contemporary, but sophisticated enough to go the many directions Metheny's music does.
Burton says when he put that quartet together, which also features bassist Scott Colley, the band hit the road and found its heart, something that wasn't a surprise.
“The road is where everything seems to click,” he says. “Touring is where you can fine-tune an arrangement before recording.”
He says that sharpening is even true in his work with pianist Chick Corea, with whom he has done duets for 40 years.
While Burton stays active with Corea and his own band, he does consider himself “semi-retired.” He ended his work at Berklee nine years ago, moved to South Florida and runs his career as he sees fit from there.
He is quite aware many jazz musicians have kept playing long after they should have and says he does not want to be one of them.
“I really admire their chutzpah,” he says, “but you really have to know when to give it up.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Monkees elected to Pop Music Hall of Fame in Canonsburg
- ‘O Starry Night:’ Petersen ready for big pop event
- Billy Joel plans Pittsburgh show on Feb. 21
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra goes full-tilt for outer edges
- Contrasts rule as Honeck leads dynamic show
- Lady Gaga ARTPOP tour comes to Pittsburgh in May