Vibes Master Gary Burton Calls It A Career

A few weeks ago jazz vibes player Gary Burton announced he was staging the final tour of his 50-plus-year career, and this past Friday he played his last show at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis.  Not many artists have devoted themselves to this unusual instrument, and I wonder if anyone will ever again play it with Burton’s virtuosity.

According to a feature by NPR, the first use of the instrument in a jazz recording was by Lionel Hampton in 1930 on “Memories of You” by Louis Armstrong.  Legend has it that shortly before this recording, jazz drummer Hampton had come across the instrument at NBC studios, where it was sometimes used to play the network’s distinctive 3-tone identifier chime.

Thirty years after Hampton introduced the instrument, a 17-year-old Burton began his career recording with guitar virtuoso Hank Garland.  Here’s a track from that era with Burton right up front.  The drummer on this track is Joe Morello, Dave Brubeck’s longtime collaborator.

Here are some pure shots of Burton from 1966 and 2010.  Jaw dropping.

And here’s a duet with frequent collaborator Makoto Ozone from 1995. Burton chose Ozone to accompany him on his farewell tour. And if you haven’t had enough, here’s a link to a post from a couple of years ago featuring Burton and  another frequent collaborator, Chick Corea.

Jazz Greats Play for All the Lonely People

We also like jazz at Music Now & Then – hope you do too.

In 2012 Chick Corea and Gary Burton released “Hot House”, marking 40 years of collaborations by the two jazz legends. Two tracks on the album won 2013 Grammys, “Mozart Goes Dancing” for Best Instrumental Composition and the title track for Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

The album also includes a cover of the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby”.  The song has been covered (and more recently sampled) by countless artists since its release in 1966, but it’s been a special favorite of jazz artists through the years.  In addition to Chick and Gary’s version, check out Stanley Jordan’s interpretation from his 1985 album “Magic Touch”.  Jordan’s unusual two-hand tapping technique makes his performance sound like the work of more than one musician.

If you like your jazz more in the classic vein, listen to Wes Montgomery’s cover released in 1967.  It’s from his album “A Day in the Life” – yes, another Beatles cover – that reached #1 on the Billboard Jazz Album chart that year.

Buy Music