Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

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.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.