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Gary Burton Quartet - Guided Tour

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On Guided Tour, Burton sought out original material from all the group’s members (as he did with Common Ground), illuminating their wide range of cross-cultural musical styles. “They outdid themselves this time,” he says. The program includes “Legacy”—a haunting ballad written by Scott Colley to honor his recently deceased father—and the two Antonio Sanchez pieces that bookend the disc: the splashy Latin-themed opener, “Caminos,” featuring solos from only the percussion instruments (drums and vibes); and “Monk Fish,” a romp on familiar chords infused with the wry humor found in the music of bop-era pianist Thelonious Monk.

Three pieces from Lage demonstrate the unusually mature sense of composition that also marks his solos. In “The Lookout,” he cleverly recasts “Careful,” written by the influential guitarist Jim Hall (and one that Burton has recorded, with Hall himself, in the past). On “Sunday’s Uncle,” we find Lage playing what Burton calls “one of his own devilishly challenging melody themes with apparent ease, in counterpoint to my own part—which is considerably less difficult I’m happy to say”—before easing into a particularly memorably solo. And “Helena” exploits the guitar’s Iberian heritage while updating that tradition with complex rhythms and jazz harmonies.

What’s more, Burton—a famously reticent composer, who has always relied primarily on others’ compositions for his repertoire—contributed two new songs of his own. He describes the first, a jazz waltz entitled “Jane Fonda Called Again,” as “whimsical and Bill Evans-ish (intentionally so).” He might have added that it subtly recalls some of the legendary composers whose music has dovetailed with Burton’s own throughout his career, such as Steve Swallow, Carla Bley and Pat Metheny; Lage’s solo especially stands out. And Burton’s “Remembering Tano” pays tribute to his “tango mentor,” the master composer and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla (nicknamed “Tano,” for his Italian heritage); their 1986 collaboration The New Tango opened up a fresh avenue of world-music exploration for the vibist.

Two songs from outside the band complete the set list: the stately Michel Legrand ballad “Once Upon A Summertime” and pianist Fred Hersch’s “Jackalope,” written (mostly) in 7/4 time and delightfully unpredictable in its phrasing.

For Burton, the proof of this album’s success came several weeks after the musicians had left the studio. “I can't judge an album very well right after I record it, having gone over and over the tracks in editing, mastering, etc.,” he says. “So I always put a new project aside for a month or so, then come back to it and listen with fresh ears—as I imagine a listener might hear it for the first time. And when I did that with Guided Tour, I was struck by the richness of the content, the range of the compositions, and how well the group captured each piece.

Gary Burton Quartet - Guided Tour 


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