by Josef Woodard

METH REVISITS BURTON: A magical moment occurred
at last summer’s Montreal Jazz Festival when guitarist Pat
walked onstage with vibist Gary
, the guitarist’s first major employer back in the
early ’70s. It was old home week for a couple of hours, as the band
covered material a ’70s audience would have heard, along with
original bassist Steve Swallow and Metheny’s
current drummer Antonio Sanchez. Metheny has
briefly crossed paths with Burton before, as on the all-star album
Like Minds in 1998, but this was something distinctive, a ripe

The difference between then and now, of course, is that
Metheny’s career, launched right out of his Burton stint in 1976,
has soared into a rarefied zone where mass public acceptance — by
jazz standards — has mixed with critical acclaim, mostly, and
sweeping public acknowledgment few jazz artists have managed.

Metheny’s Montreal visit involved much nostalgic reflection,
through a special series of concerts in the festival’s Invitation
series. Burton hired Metheny when both were teaching at Berklee
College of Music in Boston. Metheny was a bright young player, more
grounded in theory and clean-toned than his “fusion”
contemporaries, and obviously blessed with some fresh ideas the
world was ready to hear. Burton’s own music, tinged with lyricism
and folk flavors, was an influence on Metheny’s musical

That night in Montreal last summer, the pair decided the reunion
was worthy of more serious attention, more than a one-night stand.
The resulting tour and live recording project is underway, and the
Lobero Theatre, where they play on Tuesday, is one of the lucky
venues (one of six U.S. bookings). No doubt, Metheny cast a
favorable vote for the Lobero, having played a sizzling show there
last September. Word of the theater’s reputation as a stellar jazz
venue is spreading. In another connection, the last time Burton
played in Santa Barbara was some 30 years ago in the Arlington
Theatre, with essentially this same band, part of a roving tour of
artists on the ECM label. Back then, Metheny was just a gifted
sprout with a fat guitar, on the cusp of a brilliant career. Fast
forward to 2006, and his role in the Gary Burton Quartet
project brings one strain in the guitarist’s
musical narrative full circle (to quote a Metheny album title).
Needless to say, the Burton concert is one of the significant jazz
events in Santa Barbara this year.

BIG BAND WAGONEER: Fans of big-band writing
should make haste to catch the Chris Walden Big
, returning to SOhO on Monday. As with his previous
SOhO shows, the stunning jazz singer Tierney
will sit in on a few charts. Born, raised, and
trained in Germany, Walden went Hollywood for work, and has created
one of the finest West Coast big bands. His debut album, Home of My
Heart, nabbed two Grammy nominations and will be followed by No
Bounds, out in July.

Both recordings show Walden’s assured skill at mediating
old-school notions and fresh blasts of sophistication and harmonic
adventure, with a decided European lean. Here’s another example why
recent reports of Europe’s favorable influence on the reputedly
all-American genre of jazz are not exaggerated.

OJAI BOUND: Okay, so the most important
classical music event in Santa Barbara — the Ojai Music
(June 8-11) — isn’t exactly in Santa Barbara, but
considering its closer proximity to us than L.A. enables claims of
some proprietary interest. What has distinguished the festival and
given it international cachet is its central notion that classical
music actually is alive and forward-moving, not weirdly lodged in
the land of dead white men’s heads. This weekend’s program,
organized by music director Robert Spano,
celebrates good, challenging, and accessible current music,
focusing on one of the brightest living composers, Osvaldo
, great American soprano Dawn
, the fine new music ensemble eighth
, and inspired oddball inventor/musician
Trimpin doing Conlon Nancarrow. (Got e?


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