BIANCULLI: Jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton has been mixing styles since he was a teenaged prodigy in the early 1960s, recording with Nashville musicians like guitarist Chet Atkins and Hank Garland. After that, Burton added rock elements to his jazz in the late 1960s.

Critic Kevin Whitehead says that after that all these years those old associations still leave a mark.

(Soundbite of song, "Did You Get It?")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD: The blues - "Did You Get It?" - by Antonio Sanchez, the drummer in Gary Burton's quartet. It's on the album "Common Ground." Burton has always counted on collaborators to pull him in various directions - not because the vibist(ph) doesn't have his own preferences, but for the variety. Burton also likes a tight-knit working band, and he's got one in his new quartet, which is touring this summer and fall. Sanchez works hand in glove with bassist Scott Colley; they'd already teamed up in the drummer's band.

(Soundbite of song, "Did You Get It?")

WHITEHEAD: By using four mallets on vibes instead of two, Gary Burton can lay down bittersweet chords like a piano romantic. But those extra tentacles also let him do fast octopus dances in complex rhythm, a kind of throwback to '70s jazz-rock. Burton was there at the dawn of fusion jazz, and that influence still lurks under the surface.

(Soundbite of song, "Did You Get It?")

WHITEHEAD: The heart of this quartet is the flinty interplay between contrasting metallic voices: Burton's ringing aluminum vibraphone bars versus one-time protege Julian Lage's steel-string guitar. His round hollow-body tone is not so fusion-y, but the tunes the players bring in may involve sudden wrinkles, knotted lines and shifting rhythms, as in fusion. This is from deep in Julian Lage's tune "Banksy," where one episode quickly gives way to the next or jumps back to the last - maybe to evoke the graffiti artist it's named for, staying one foot ahead of the law.

(Soundbite of song, "Banksy")

WHITEHEAD: For Gary Burton, every new beginning confirms some eternal constants. In a way he's not so far from where he started, blending with big-toned country guitarists 50 years ago. "Common Ground" draws other connections to his past; the one lyrical tune Burton wrote echoes '60s collaborator Carla Bley, and the quartet revive a poppy Keith Jarrett song Burton played with him way back when. One reason some things don't change much is they wear well as they are. Update only as needed.

(Soundbite of song, "Banksy")

BIANCULLI: Kevin Whitehead is the jazz columnist for eMusic.com. He reviewed "Common Ground" by the new Gary Burton Quartet.

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