The Gary Burton Quartet with Eberhard Weber: Passengers (ECM 1092)

 

The Gary Burton Quartet with Eberhard Weber
Passengers

Gary Burton vibraharp
Pat Metheny guitar
Steve Swallow bass guitar
Dan Gottlieb drums
Eberhard Weber bass
Recorded November 1976 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Gary Burton’s Passengers has it all: its frontman’s incomparable mallets, Dan Gottlieb keeping the beat, the unmistakable bass of Eberhard Weber paired with the equally unique stylings of Steve Swallow, the fluid fingers of guitarist Pat Metheny (who would soon go on to front his own super group with Weber and Gottlieb), and the all-important bow of ECM’s attentive production. Not enough to whet your appetite? All the more reason to buy it.

Chick Corea’s “Sea Journey” opens with the floating exuberance that Burton carries off like no other. Weber pulls out all the stops here, proving to be perfect complement to Burton’s sound. A stunning piece of work with a heightened groove-oriented trajectory. This is followed by three Metheny compositions. In the subtle ballad “Nacada,” vibes rest on a gentle surface tension of flowing bass, guitar, and brushed drums. “The Whopper” locks into more upbeat strides. Weber’s bass is as bright and attractive as it gets, while Metheny’s solo dances on a pinhead. Listeners will recognize “B & G (Midwestern Nights Dream)” from his seminal Bright Size Life, its fractured rhythms maintained beautifully here. The quiet background supports a glowing solo from Weber, not to mention another from Metheny himself. “Yellow Fields” (Weber) is another exuberant number, and features the album’s most incredible vibe work. The bittersweet farewell of Swallow’s “Claude And Betty” contorts its hands in shadow puppets, backlit as if by a sad and lonesome dream.

Mindfully recorded and expertly executed, the melodies of Passengers come alive with unpretentious joy. The synthesis of players forms a palette in the truest sense, its colors already artfully arranged before they are ever mixed and applied to canvas. An essential addition to any Burton library, and a must-have for any Weber fan looking to complement his brooding, handsome meditations with something more uplifting.

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3 thoughts on “The Gary Burton Quartet with Eberhard Weber: Passengers (ECM 1092)

  1. Spot on! Dreams So Real is fine, Ring is great – Passengers tops them all (from this period of Burton/Metheny pre-PMG discs). As a bonus, it has one of those iconic early ECM cover graphics that are just perfect. I don’t have to write any more – because you nailed it, Tyran!

  2. I collezionisti più attenti già lo sanno. Per gli altri sarà una piacevole sorpresa scoprire che, oltre a That Summer Something, gioiello sepolto nell’omonimo, raro album della Ross-Levine Band, il repertorio di Pat Metheny annovera anche due pezzi originali scritti apposta per Gary Burton e incisi dall’autore solo sotto le insegne del vibrafonista. Oggi fa impressione osservare come, nonostante la sua presenza, tra i titolari ufficiali di Passengers manchi il nome di Metheny, all’epoca non ancora big planetario, anche se già sotto contratto con l’ECM – le sedute di Bright Size Life sono di pochi mesi precedenti a queste – peraltro raccomandato dallo stesso Burton. Il quintetto (4+1) schiera un’elegante sezione ritmica – Steve Swallow, Danny Gottlieb – ideale per sostenere con la necessaria duttilità gli idiofoni di Burton, la chitarra di Metheny e l’allora inconsueto contrabbasso elettrico di Weber, qui in veste di terzo solista. Il raffinato impasto strumentale caratterizza gli arrangiamenti di Sea Journey, pagina firmata da Chick Corea per l’esordio discografico di Stanley Clarke (Children Of Forever), e di Yellow Fields, standard dell’etichetta tedesca ripreso dal catalogo di Eberhard Weber (Yellow Fields). Le partiture di Metheny – una ballad (Nacada), un simil-samba (The Whopper), un ostinato [B & G (Midwestern Nights Dream)] ripreso dal suo esordio – sono altrettante lezioni di gusto e ingegno. Il fuoriclasse di Lee’s Summit vi esibisce già le doti che lo renderanno famoso e che, a questi livelli di eccellenza, si rinvengono raramente in uno stesso artista: un’impareggiabile attitudine a comporre temi di struggente bellezza e la capacità di improvvisare mantenendo sempre un prodigioso senso della melodia.

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