Life Behind The Vibes: Jazz Musician Gary Burton Looks Back

Jazz vibraphone great Gary Burton joins us, on a unique instrument and an unusual life.

Jazzman Gary Burton performs with vibraphone during his concert with Makoto Ozone at the Stravinski hall stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, on Monday, July 15, 2002. (AP)

Jazzman Gary Burton performs with vibraphone during his concert with Makoto Ozone at the Stravinski hall stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, on Monday, July 15, 2002. (AP)

Gary Burton is a jazz great on the vibes – the vibraphone.  Seven-time Grammy winner.  Right there with Stan Getz and Chick Corea. A pioneer in fusion jazz — rock and jazz and his flying four mallets on the vibes.  He’s an honored teacher and a jazz festival leading light.  But all that is only part of the story.  At 70, jazz man Gary Burton is telling the rest.  His start in small-town Indiana.  His personal journey as an unannounced gay man in a macho jazz world.  Up next On Point:  the whole story, with jazz great, vibes man, Gary Burton.

– Tom Ashbrook


Gary Burton, seven-time Grammy Award-winner, composer, educator and pioneer of the jazz vibraphone and fusion jazz; his latest album, with The New Gary Burton Quartet, is “Guided Tour.” Also author of a new autobiography, “Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Bloomberg Businessweek: Gary Burton Recalls Secret Gay Life, Drunken Stan Getz —  “My original idea was to get three guitar players, but it turned out that everyone I asked except Larry Coryell wasn’t available. John Scofield wasn’t available, Metheny wasn’t available. So I picked players such as (Cuban trumpeter) Arturo Sandoval. I’m on his Grammy-winning record this year. Terence Blanchard is a trumpeter who has always interested me. He’s very big in jazz education. I’ve gotten to know him, but we’ve never played together, so it’s a chance to play and get to know him better.”

USA Today: Jazz Great Gary Burton: A Lifetime Learning to Listen — “Burton played with jazz giants Stan Getz and George Shearing before forming the Gary Burton Quartet, a groundbreaking unit that fused jazz, rock and country styles. Through the years, Burton, 70, has gathered seven Grammy awards and released more than 60 albums, collaborating with musicians including pianist Chick Corea, guitarist Pat Metheny, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and tango great Astor Piazzolla. His current band, the New Gary Burton Quartet, features guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez and released its second album, ‘Guided Tour,’ in August.”

All About Jazz: The New Gary Burton Quartet: Guided Tour –  “Like ‘Common Ground,’ Burton’s new quartet also draws mostly on its own compositional acumen, with only two of its ten tracks culled from external sources. One, an old chestnut, Michel Legrand’s collaboration with Johnny Mercer, “Once Upon a Summertime,” opens as a dark, rubato tone poem brimming with implication that is ultimately (and briefly) delivered upon when the quartet moves into straight time for brief but beautifully constructed solos from both Lage and Burton, before returning to the out-of-time intro where, once again, Lage layers the familiar melody over an ethereal bed of vibes, Colley’s soft arco, Sanchez’s swelling cymbal work and the guitarist’s own overdubbed, finger-picked voicings.”

Excerpt of “Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton” by Gary Burton


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