Review: The New Gary Burton Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s

The New Gary Burton Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s, Tuesday 14th May 2013, review by Andy Boeckstaens)

With Gary Burton’s “new” quartet, convened in 2010, the vibraphone master has rediscovered the verve of his wonderful groups with Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow and Roy Haynes.

In Afro Blue and Never The Same Way, Burton and co ran the gamut of expression with great skill. Guitarist Julian Lage, swooning with delight, played clean, fleet lines and exerted admirable concentration during his lengthy introduction to My Funny Valentine, which was accompanied solely by the annoying thump, thump of music coming from next door. Bass player Scott Colley propelled the rhythm section and produced several intricate solos, while Antonio Sanchez’s drumming was refreshingly melodic and economic. The musicians – Burton included – contributed just one composition each to the set-list, allowing space for a couple of (over-familiar) standards, a googly or two and a throwaway encore for good measure.

There were four tunes from a previous (2011) quartet release on the Mack Avenue label, but just two from the brand new CD, Guided Tour: his own tribute to Astor Piazzolla, Remembering Tano (an affecting tango), and Lage’s piece The Lookout (which is actually a funky take on Jim Hall’s beautifully-crafted swinger Careful). Shortly before the end of the gig, on Did You Get It? Burton explored every nook of the blues and tore into a truly fantastic solo that was drenched with an uncharacteristically arrogant swagger. This was the highlight of a hugely impressive show.

These men have worked together long enough to fully understand the music and optimise each other’s strengths and stylistic quirks, and they simultaneously avoid any glimmer of tedium or routine along the way. Perhaps they manage it every time, but I had the feeling that this was a particularly hot night by a band already in the midst of a purple patch.

Gary Burton retains his hallowed position in the vibes pantheon. At 70 he remains a live performer to be reckoned with.

The musicians:

Gary Burton – vibraphone
Julian Lage – guitar
Scott Colley – bass
Antonio Sanchez – drums

The selections:

Afro-Blue (Mongo Santamaria)
Never The Same Way (Scott Colley)
I Hear A Rhapsody (George Fragos, Jack Baker and Dick Gasparre)
Remembering Tano (Gary Burton)
The Lookout (Julian Lage)
Late Night Sunrise (Vadim Neselovskyi)
Waltz For A Lovely Wife (Phil Woods)
My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers)
Did You Get It? (Antonio Sanchez)

Bags’ Groove (Milt Jackson)

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