The New Gary Burton Quartet – Guided Tour
(Mack Avenue Records MAC 1074. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘From the first recording of this band, everything just clicked perfectly’ is Gary Burton’s reaction to the tightness, cohesion and brisk inventiveness of his New Quartet, which is completed by guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez.
This is the band’s second album (Common Ground was their 2012 debut), and it is indeed, as Burton points out, notable for ‘the richness of the content, the range of the compositions, and how well the group captured each piece’. In addition to the elegant, assured vibes soloing of Burton himself, this richly varied and unfussily musicianly album also features another in the line of superb guitarists championed by him (Pat Metheny and Larry Coryell got their first breaks in his band).
Julian Lage is immediately noteworthy for eschewing the electronic gimmickry so prevalent in the approaches of other contemporary guitarists; his is a clean-picked, limber, fleet approach where each note is precisely articulated and plays its vital role in a pleasingly logical but delightfully unpredictable solo, and he blends his neat but muscular sound perfectly with Burton’s alternately glowing and cascading vibes.
The rhythm section, too, is simply exemplary, whip-smart, purring or strikingly rackety as required by the wide-ranging in-band original compositions, whether these are latin-flavoured (Sanchez’s opener, ‘Caminos’), affecting ballads (Colley’s‘Legacy’) or what Burton calls Lage’s ‘devilishly challenging melody themes’.
There are also nods to Burton’s past recordings and projects (his own ‘Remembering Tano’, dedicated to late tango mentor Astor Piazzolla; ‘Jane Fonda Called Again’ musically referencing not only Bill Evans but also Carla Bley and Steve Swallow), but whatever they’re playing, Burton’s group addresses it with vibrancy, subtle power and – most important – discernible enjoyment of each other’s playing.