Gary Burton On JazzSet

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Gary Burton (hand raised, center) celebrates fifty years at Berklee College of Music with three generations of friends.

Gary Burton (hand raised, center) celebrates 50 years at Berklee College of Music with three generations of friends. Courtesy of Phil Farnsworth hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Phil Farnsworth

Set List

"Como en Vietnam" (Swallow)

"Syndrome" (Carla Bley)

"Test of Time" (Ozone)

"Eiderdown" (Swallow)

"Early" (Lage)

"La Fiesta" (Corea)

Rehearsing for the concert with all these friends, "I saw my life flash before my eyes," Gary Burton says with pleasure from the stage.

In 1960, at age 17, Burton came from Indiana to study at Berklee, a music school in a Boston brownstone. He stayed and helped transform the school into the educational powerhouse that it is today. This concert celebrates Berklee's golden anniversary.

Our JazzSet compilation features three groups representing three generations. The first features guitarist John Scofield and saxophonist Joe Lovano, who now holds the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance at Berklee. Burton has teamed up with bassist Steve Swallow for between 25 and 40 years ("I have lost track," Burton says), and "the new guy" on the drums is Antonio Sanchez.

The next group features three horns and a pianist who came through Berklee as students in the 1970s and '80s, then worked with Burton. That's been his pattern — scout them, teach them, hire them. They are Tiger Okoshi on trumpet, Jim Odgren on alto, Donny McCaslin on tenor, Makoto Ozone on piano, Swallow and Sanchez.

In the concert program, Swallow notes that when he first played with Burton in the mid-1960s, "there were no bad notes. ... His lucid sense of logic and instinct for the most graceful phrase never fails him." Antonio Sanchez (born 1971, Mexico City) writes that, as a student, "the possibility of playing with him someday was a big incentive to keep practicing and improving. [Burton is] assertive and nurturing." And Julian Lage (class of 2009) recalls that after Burton saw 12-year-old Julian on a Grammy telecast, Burton got in touch.

"The simplest things that Gary does are incredible — from coordinating logistics to preparing sets, even things as small as how to write emails to members of the band," Lage says. "You step back and say, 'Oh, that's how you run a band.'"

With Burton (onstage throughout the show), the third group plays a tango by Lage. The players are Vadim Neselovskyi from the Ukraine on piano, Luques Curtis on bass and James Williams on drums. And the finale is a vibes-and-piano duet with Burton and old friend Chick Corea in "La Fiesta."

Gary Burton has a new album, Common Ground, which features Julian Lage.


Bob Blumenthal, Rob Hayes, Tom Riley, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Rob Rose of Berklee College of Music.



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