When Gary Burton finally retired from his career as a Berklee administrator and professor, he also cut back on regular touring with a quartet, instead assembling groups for shorter durations. These performances come from two nights at Yoshi's in Oakland, reuniting the vibraphonist with former sidemen Pat Metheny and Steve Swallow, along with Metheny's regular drummer at the time, Antonio Sanchéz, who joined them for what was intended to be a one-shot concert a few years earlier at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The music includes both old and new material, with the former sounding fresh rather than a mere autopilot run-through that some reunion bands might offer, while the recent works prove to be just as enticing.
The quartet's interpretations of Swallow's compositions include an intricate, fast-paced take of "Falling Grace" along with a lively "Hullo, Bolinas" (both of which Burton has played many times over his long career). Duke Ellington's "Fleurette Africaine (Little African Flower)" has been a part of Burton's repertoire since the mid-'80s, and though the vibraphonist's approach is brighter and played at a faster tempo than the composer's brooding recording, this updated look builds upon Ellington's magical gift for melody with brilliant improvising all around. Burton contributed the funky blues "Walter L," which finds the musicians having a lot of fun with its catchy theme. Metheny's "Question and Answer" also appeared on an earlier recording with Burton and Chick Corea, but the omission of piano gives this version a simmering, more intricate air. This reunion will hopefully lead to future recorded reunions by these four gifted musicians.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden
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