Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gary Burton - Quartet Live (Concord, 2009)

Originally getting back together for a festival gig in Montreal, vibraphonist Gary Burton and longtime colleagues guitarist Pat Metheny, electric bassist Steve Swallow were joined by drummer Antonio Sanchez. The musicians discovered that they were so inspired by the music that they decided to take it on the road for a tour. The selections included on this album were recorded at Yoshi's in Oakland, California in June of 2007. "Sea Journey" opens the album with a mysterious melody, and Metheny's guitar starts out with a gauzy sound, becoming more defined as his solo develops, then gives way to a melodic bass solo. "Olhos de Gato" has a milder and slower feel. Burton takes a patient solo, before Metheny plays some pointillistic guitar on this ballad. "Falling Grace" was one of the highlights of the album for me, opening with a stronger pace from the trio sans guitar, featuring Burton taking a nice, spritely solo. Metheny enters afterwards and keeps the spirits high with a pulsing solo backed by Sanchez's drums. Another highlight was "Walter L" also a fast paced song, featuring the full band playing with an energetic pop feel, Metheny developing a snarling guitar over Sanchez's rocking drums. "Missouri Uncompromised" opens rapidly with guitar and vibes harmonizing over fast drumming, before Metheny comes in fast and strong. But this track really belongs to Snachez who is killing throughout. Duke Ellington's beautiful ballad "Fleurette Africaine" slows the pace down with mellow vibraphone solos sandwiching a more intense guitar interlude. Metheny's composition "Question and Answer" ends the album with a lengthy performance starting with the understated theme, and a short round of solos before Metheny takes an intense solo which adds some subtle guitar synth to the mix, getting a little wild, before bringing the rest of the group back in and taking it out. One of the most enjoyable aspect of this music was the easygoing familiarity the musicians have with each other, they know that the support will be there so they can be creative and take chances. This keeps things fresh and the music is able to avoid the pitfalls of other "supergroup" recordings, as the egos are kept in check and the music flows freely.
Send comments to: Tim