In 1963, the jazz pianist George Shearing, an enormously popular act in his day, made an album that was unusual for him. He asked his new, 20-year-old vibraphone player to write an album of contrapuntal, classical-music-inspired compositions, and recorded them with a woodwind quintet atop a jazz rhythm section. It’s out of print now, but Out of the Woods received good reviews, and it remains an early career highlight for its young architect, Gary Burton.
Gary Burton is 70 now, and that’s just two pages’ worth of his new autobiography Learning to Listen. Here’s a guy who played with Stan Getz and Chick Corea, was an early adopter of jazz fusion, and became the Dean of Berklee College of Music. But when he stopped by the Tiny Desk, he saluted that moment by calling an unrelated tune called “Out of the Woods.” For his next number, Burton called “Remembering Tano,” a piece he wrote for another man with whom he’s worked briefly but meaningfully: new-tango pioneer Astor Piazzolla.
Burton has a long history of hiring great guitarists, and his current band is no exception. Julian Lage is just 25, but his own band already played the Tiny Desk once; his jabs and lean threading brighten this session. Their dialogue accentuates another thing about Burton: He may be past retirement age, but he can still dazzle. He concocted an impromptu blues for his final number, and sent his signature four-mallet grip slaloming up and down the instrument. –PATRICK JARENWATTANANON
“Out Of The Woods”
“The Tiny Desk Blues”
Producers: Denise DeBelius, Patrick Jarenwattananon; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Becky Harlan