The Gary Burton Quartet, featuring Pat Metheny

At the Lobero Theatre, Tuesday, June 13.

Reviewed by Stanley Naftaly

gary_burton.jpgThere was power to spare when the 1967
Gary Burton Quartet momentarily reformed on the Lobero stage last
Tuesday evening, and the atmosphere in the full house was charged
with excitement. Burton is known for perfecting a four-mallet
technique that freed the vibraphone from its strictly percussive
role and allowed him to develop longer, more complex, harmonically
extraordinary lines. Guitarist Pat Metheny has been similarly
inventive. While playing with Burton from 1967 to 1971, Metheny
reinvented the jazz guitar, blending the looseness and flexible
articulation usually associated with horn players with a modern
rhythmic and melodic approach.

The third member of that early ensemble, bassist Steve Swallow,
is one of the most extraordinary jazz players ever to lay a finger
on a fretboard. Solid as the proverbial rock as a rhythmic player,
Swallow’s solos are lyrical, sensitive, and fascinating. He also
wrote many of the original group’s songs — deeply beautiful,
intelligent compositions that elicited appreciative deep breaths
from the crowd. Rounding out the quartet is the amazing Antonio
Sanchez, Metheny’s regular drummer, who lived up to his reputation,
showing major chops and remarkably cohesive playing.

In 1967, Burton led a fusion band that predated Miles Davis’s
Bitches Brew. In the same year, he played a concert with the rock
super group, Cream. The energy that informed those events was
definitely in evidence at this concert. Metheny played a solid-body
guitar three times during the show, and every time he picked it up,
what resulted was the most perfect definition of jazz/rock fusion
imaginable. The music kept the melodic and harmonic complexity of
jazz while adding the raw energy and abandon of rock. Burton did a
Jekyll/Hyde on the vibes and Metheny reminded everyone that he can
howl potently.

The concert featured music by Chick Corea, Carla Bley, Keith
Jarrett, and Duke Ellington as well as Burton’s, Metheny’s, and
Swallow’s compositions, and the mood ranged from ballads to
up-tempo burners. A high point of the evening was a duet by Burton
and Swallow on Swallow’s composition “I’m Your Pal.” Like
everything these master musicians offered us, it was perfectly
formed and lovely to behold.


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