Gary Burton Quartet: Real Life Hits (ECM 1293)

Gary Burton Quartet
Real Life Hits

Gary Burton vibes, marimba
Makoto Ozone piano
Steve Swallow bass guitar
Mike Hyman drums
Recorded November 1984 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Vibraphonist Gary Burton was one of the hottest things around in the 1980s, his quartet a springboard for up-and-comers like Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone, who shines alongside bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Mike Hyman as if he’d grown up with the guys. A sparkling talent, Ozone adds color where there is only monochrome, and vice versa. He is at once ethereal and down to earth, emotes with a sweeping grandeur yet regales us with his intimacy at the keyboard. The syncopations he adds to the album’s two Carla Bley tunes are head-on wondrous. These include the complex title number, with its deft interweaving of vibes and keys, and the sprightly “Syndrome.” Like its eponym, this opener is an inescapable groove of activity, a fiery yet clean spring to concerted action. Swallow is in his usual leapfrog mode here, jumping from one palette of energy to another with ease. Ozone also grounds us deeper than we’d ever expect in the bassist’s “Ladies In Mercedes,” a groovy montuno exercise that features marimba in place of vibes.  Burton makes the normally muted instrument sparkle with his pointillism, which also boggles us with its precision in German Lukyanov’s “Ivanushka Durachok” (a rare dip into Russian jazz). With its catchy bass line and effervescent vibes, this piano-driven head nod is right where you want to be. Three slices of nostalgia round out the set, including the gorgeous seesaw of Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” and John Scofield’s “The Beatles” (John Scofield). These quiet vessels carry us into the waters of Ozone’s own balladic contribution, “I Need You Here.” Bubbling with Burton’s exceptional mallet work, this tearjerker hits us where it hurts.

This is yet another solid outing from Burton and company. Like the cover art, it is something of a collage that makes for a complete portrait of a time and place, a snapshot with a living soundtrack. This is real life.

<< Dave Holland Quintet: Seeds of Time (ECM 1292)
>> Jan Garbarek Group: It’s OK to listen to the gray voice (ECM 1294)

One thought on “Gary Burton Quartet: Real Life Hits (ECM 1293)

  1. This, as well as Easy as Pie (and one other of the last of the ECM Burtons) really are obscure – and I confess that I’ve not heard any of the post-Metheny-in-the-band Burton releases (except those with Corea or Towner)…..your positive reviews will induce me to change that, for sure!

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