New York, NY
September, 21, 2011
Lionel Hampton carved out a place for the vibraphone in a swing setting, and Milt Jackson brought the instrument into bop, but Gary Burton remains the guru and guiding light in virtually every other aspect for vibraphonists and fans the world over. As a visionary educator, he helped to make Berklee the place to go for aspiring jazzers, and as a performer, he's redefined the very way the vibraphone is played. His four-mallet grip and stunning technique pointed the way to a more pianistic approach for vibraphonists everywhere, and his influence looms large over every aspiring vibes player who came into being in the past four or five decades. While countless other vibraphonists active today—from elder statesmen like Bobby Hutcherson, Teddy Charles and Mike Mainieri to younger trendsetters like Stefon Harris and Jason Adasiewicz—have left a lasting impact in different ways, Burton is in a class all his own.
During this visit to New York's Blue Note, where this quartet first came together nearly a year earlier, Burton brought forth a set of music that churned, swirled and glowed with clarity and energy. The first set on the opening night of a four-evening run featured nods to vibraphone forefathers, with a Cal Tjader-associated "Afro Blue" opening the set and Milt Jackson's signature "Bags' Groove" serving as the show-ending encore, but original works from the quartet's Common Ground (Mack Avenue, 2011) proved to be the main attraction. Bassist Scott Colley's "Never The Same Way" began with interlacing rhythms that seemed random at first, but quickly connected in logical fashion. Guitarist Julian Lage delivered nimble, single note lines as he moved all over the neck and, on this song and elsewhere throughout the set, he showed a strong kinship with drummer Antonio Sanchez. Sanchez continually supported him, while simultaneously egging him on with his polyrhythmic drumming spree.