Gary Burton Quartet: Easy As Pie (ECM 1184)

The Gary Burton Quartet
Easy As Pie

Gary Burton vibraharp
Jim Odgren alto saxophone
Steve Swallow bass
Mike Hyman drums
Recorded June 1980 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Gary Burton’s involvement in any project guarantees smoothness and melodic robustness, and Easy As Pie is no less promising than one would expect from the mallet master. As the title may imply, the results are generally laid back, but ever virtuosic. From the first licks of “Reactionary Tango” (Carla Bley) we get a taste of the banquet about to be laid before us. Jim Odgren shines on reeds the pages of this developing story, snipping from them a string of paper dolls. As one is swept away by the strains of “Summer Band Camp” (Mick Goodrick)—a fantastic piece that first appeared on the composer’s In Pas(s)ing—one notices just how integral Odgren is to the overall sound. “Blame It On My Youth” (Oscar Levant) is emblematic of what Burton does so well, capturing moments and memories as if in snapshots of living sound. In this solo piece, he sews that feeling of nostalgia into every motivic cell of activity. And further in “Isfahan” (Strayhorn/Ellington), a smoky ballad with plenty of shadow in which to luxuriate unseen, Burton turns that shadow into liquid gold in the throes of his soloing. Just so this joint doesn’t weigh us down with too much dark energy, two Chick Corea tunes, “Tweek” and “Stardancer,” give us plenty of beat to chew on and highlight Steve Swallow’s unstoppable groove. Between the kaleidoscopic drum solo from Mike Hyman and Odgren’s storybook endings, there is more than enough color to go around.

The members of Burton’s quartet work like kilned clay, which must be scored before being fit together to survive the heat with which it is imbibed. If this is dinner jazz, then prepare to be stuffed.

5 thoughts on “Gary Burton Quartet: Easy As Pie (ECM 1184)

  1. This is one of those that i’ve been desiring to get for years-one of those that ECM never did get around to issuing on CD. I missed the vinyl edition of this as well. But the follow-up “Picture This” -sadly also never issued on CD, features the exact same band and I do have the vinyl for that. As much as I love hearing guitar in the context of Burton’s work, there’s something special about this quartet and instrumental line up with Burton playing the only harmonic instrument. As good as this combination does sound with piano, I still prefer the more spacious, less busy sound of the vibes/marimba with the saxophone, bass and drums only. I’ve since copied my pretty worn vinyl of “Picture This” to CD-R so I can re-live it over and over, and am hoping that ECM gets around to “Easy” as well, since it’s the only other recording of this quartet edition of Burton’s group.

  2. About once a year I check everywhere to see whether this album has been issued on CD or whether Reactionary Tango has been included in some compilation. It is magical, and if I had to pick a single tune from Burton’s discography (and I have a lot, from all periods), it might be that one. I live off my scratched vinyl copy transferred to CD. Maybe if it is reissued (one can dream!) someone from this site will email me.

    1. I checked today, again with no results for a CD release. I absolutely share your passion for Reactonary Tango on this recording and I very much hope that ECM will one day listen to our prayers.

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