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New Gary Burton Quartet Opens Silver Series at PSU

Thomas P. Caldwell - September 11, 2013

The New Gary Burton Quartet

The New Gary Burton Quartet will perform at Plymouth’s Silver Center.

With a recently released album and autobiography, Gary Burton will be opening the 2013-14 Silver Series for the Performing Arts at Plymouth State University on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m.

The August release of “Guided Tour” on Mack Avenue Records marks the second album for the New Gary Burton Quartet and it provides a range of original compositions as well as a splendid cover of Michel Legrand’s dreamlike “Once Upon A Summertime” and a performance of pianist Fred Hersch’s “Jackalope”.

Burton, now 70, famous for his four-mallet technique on the vibraphone, is a seven-time Grammy Award-winner. His current ensemble also includes Julian Lage on guitar, Scott Colley on bass, and Antonia Sanchez on drums.

Burton previously has played with musicians ranging from Chet Atkins to k.d. lang and Chick Corea. After pioneering the fusion of jazz and rock with his first band in the late 1960s, Burton performed in a quintet with Pat Metheny in the 1970s. With his new band, he released “Common Ground” a year ago and “Guided Tour” this year.

He will feel right at home on the campus of Plymouth State University, as he has spent much of his career teaching music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, establishing the first online courses at the school and creating a course in improvisation for Coursera. His career in jazz education comes through in his precise handling of the music he performs.

As Dave Gelly wrote in The Observer, “It’s one thing to be a virtuoso player, which he is, but quite another to create a whole sonic world with just four musicians. That’s what Burton has been doing consistently for more than 45 years.”

The new album includes two compositions by Burton himself: “Jane Fonda Called Again” which he labels a jazz waltz; and “Remembering Tano” which pays tribute to Astor “Tano” Piazzolla, Burton’s “tango mentor”. There is a definite hint of tango in the piece which stands out for Lage’s understated guitar work.

One of our favorites on the album is Lage’s “Sunday’s Uncle” which gives Sanchez an opportunity for some innovative drumming while featuring some great Lage guitar solos. Burton describes the piece as “one of [Lage’s] own devilishly challenging melody themes [which he plays] with apparent ease, in counterpoint to my own part — which is considerably less difficult I’m happy to say.” Lage also contributed “The Lookout” and “Helena” both of which demonstrate complex rhythms and jazz harmonies. “Helena” in particular gives bassist Colley room to move.

Colley composed the haunting “Legacy” as a tribute to his recently deceased father. A slow buildup brings in each of the musicians for a respectful group salute.

Sanchez contributed the songs to open and close the album, “Caminos” (“Path”) which has a latin-inspired theme, and “Monk Fish” with musical references to pianist Thelonious Monk and wonderful drum solos.

In describing the wide range of cross-cultural music styles on the album, Burton said of his quintet,  “They outdid themselves this time.”

Burton’s autobiography, Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton, from Berklee Press, hit the stands Sept. 3.

For tickets and information on the Silver Center performance, call 603-535-2787 or 800-779-3869. Tickets also are available online at

Burton will be signing CDs and books in the Silver lobby after the performance. 

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