I’d experienced and been exhilarated by the power of big bands, both live and via jazz programmes on BBC radio, but I was unprepared for the individual virtuosity displayed by Gary Burton at a gig in London sometime around 1969. I recall a ‘calfskin’ jacket with tassels flying, although that may be one of those memories by association. Whatever, it was a gig which moved me beyond the ‘classic’ jazz I’d been exploring since leaving the parental nest.
Now 74, earlier this year he announced his retirement and said that he would “never again play music, on stage or off.” Well, he’s certainly earned his rest, not only for his compositions but also his partnerships with a host of key jazz figures such as Chick Corea, and for his mentoring of the likes of Pat Metheny and Eberhard Weber who went on to achieve international prominence.
I did not set out to offer a ‘tribute’ to his career; these are my ‘sleevenotes’ to a compilation which was complete before I read the above. Yes, there are two tracks by him, but you quite probably haven’t heard them before if only because they are atypical.
There are also two tracks with Lionel Hampton, the first of which was apparently the first recording of a jazz solo on a vibraphone.
Lionel Hampton’s signature tune, ‘Flying Home‘, written for him by Benny Goodman, had long been a favourite; it also features Charlie Christian on guitar so I had to include it. Dave Pike, Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson should need no introduction, although the latter’s two ‘Soul Meeting‘ albums he recorded with Ray Charles – yes, that Ray Charles – on piano, are worth seeking out.
I have little to no information about Wolfgang Schlüter, a German. Louis Hjulmand was Danish and trumpeter Palle Mikkleborg still is. (Check out the Miles Davis 1985 album Aura which Mikkleborg composed and arranged.) Freddie McCoy was American but “never a hit with the critics“. However, he can be found in the IndoJazzia Archives, in the acid-jazz section, hence his inclusion here.
The last three tracks do not fit my original criteria of showcasing the development of vibraphone jazz but then Roy Ayers added funk, Alan Lee, an Australian, jazzed up a beautiful aria by Heitor Villa-Lobos, and apparently Hendrik Meurkens spent a night in Jakarta, although he certainly hasn’t jazzed up keroncong
IndoJazzia wishes Gary Burton a happy retirement.
(He may have stopped playing, but what is he listening to?}