|GARY BURTON: FOR HAMP, RED, BAGS AND CAL|
by Willard Manus
Concord Records recently released a CD by one of jazz's most gifted musicians, the vibraphonist Gary Burton. Four decades ago, when Burton was in his late teens, his father took him to see the Lionel Hampton band, an experience that decided Burton on becoming a professional musician.
was the premiere vibraphonist of the 30s and 40s (he's still playing today,
at 93!) and Burton pays homage to him--and three other equally important
vibraphonists-- on his new CD, GARY BURTON: FOR HAMP, RED, BAGS AND CAL.
Two cuts, "Midnight Sun" and "Flying Home," are tunes
made famous by Hamp, who was known for his hard-driving, up-tempo style
Burton focuses on the spirit, not the letter, of Hamp's work, and to help provide the necessary fireworks, he has tapped pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash-- all veteran swingers--to back him up.
Working from arrangements by Makoto Ozone, who also plays piano on two Red Norvo-inspired tunes, Burton essays four different styles on the CD. This is quite a feat, if only because the vibraphone is such a fiendishly difficult instrument to master. Norvo was married to the singer Mildred Bailey. They toured together after WW II and were known as Mr & Mrs Swing. Burton's tribute to him comprises four cuts on the CD: "Hole in the Wall," "Octopus," "Back Home In Indiana" and "Godchild." The latter contains some delightful surprises: namely, boogie-woogie piano by Ozone and quirky rhythms by Burton which call to mind tap-dancing. "Indiana" is more straight-ahead and conventional, a slice of red- hot jazz.
Milt "Bags" Jackson, a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, was the opposite of Norvo on the vibraphone. Lyrical and reflective, a man who tried to make his instrument mimic the sound of the human voice, Jackson was the epitome of the cool school; but such is Burton's genius that he's able to impersonate him as well. Joined by Miller, McBridge and Nash again, Burton investigates two of Bags' signature tunes, "Django" and "Bags' Groove," in a warm, fresh-sounding way.
Cal Tjader was a Latin jazz pioneer, an innovator who brought new colors and tempos to the vibraphone, but Burton easily captures all that was different about him. Backed up by John Patitucci, Horacio Hernandez and Luis Quintero, Burton delivers the goods on "Afro Blue" and "Joao," not to speak of a radically different way of playing the classic "Body and Soul" (by giving it a Brazilian tinge).