Gary Burton: Times Square (ECM 1111)

Gary Burton
Times Square

Gary Burton vibes
Steve Swallow bass guitar
Roy Haynes drums
Tiger Okoshi trumpet
Recorded January 1978 at Generation Sound Studio, New York
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Of vibraphonist Gary Burton’s roving quartets of the seventies, the assembly on Times Square is unique for the presence of Tiger Okoshi. The Japanese trumpeter’s collaborations with Burton caught the attention of many an ear and launched a fruitful career that has led to his current associate professorship at Berklee School of Music. Comfortable in both standard and fused territories, Okoshi brings a tenderness that is as biting as the leader’s vibes are liquid.

The band jumps right into the thick of things with a pair of Keith Jarrett tunes. Between the machine-gunned snare of “Semblance” and the balladic “Coral” we can already see the range of Okoshi’s flexibility. Not to be overlooked, however, is the straight-from-the-heart lyricism Burton unravels and reties in “Careful” (Jim Hall). This moves along swimmingly from the start and holds its shape through the itinerant bass of Steve Swallow, who provides five thoughtful originals for the album’s remainder. Okoshi shines again in “Peau Douce,” as does drummer Roy Haynes. Yet in this group overrun with talent from all sides, it’s Swallow who burns the midnight oil. Take, for instance, his lithe solo in “Radio” or the tightly wound core of “Como En Vietnam,” both not to be missed. And speaking of midnight, the selfsame track proves to be as sweet a palate cleanser as one could hope for. “True Or False” is also sure to bring a smile with Haynes’s whimsical solo couched between two fleeting punctuations.

Whenever Burton is involved in any musical project, one can rest assured that the melodies will be there for you, lurking in every patch of light and shadow alike. The gentle persuasions of he and his band mates preserve a nostalgic snapshot of the album’s namesake, where the onetime flowing bustle has since been clouded with noise and unrelenting visual overload. This dose of sonic clarity is all we need to make sense of the confusion.

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