Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tim Price Bloggin' For D'Addario Woodwinds- Thank you Gary Burton! Much enjoyment in your retirement years & life.

Just a few weeks ago vibraphonist , leader, educator and jazz icon Gary Burton step back from the bandstand and went into retirement. I'd like to use today's blog to thank him for the multitude of recordings and direction and inspiration he's provided. His history should be obvious to any jazz fan, if it's not immediately obvious, please google him and make it a point to take some time and get familiar with him.

Gary was discovered first by iconic innovative jazz educator-master musician John LaPorta at a summer band camp. From what I remember from what John told me, it was one of those Stan Kenton camps. That said; Gary's career from a teenager to his final concerts always were bright spots and bright moments. In a world of music this man not only stands tall , but set an incredible benchmark for those who care to partake. His bands always  had the highest level players. Manny had been introduced to the jazz audience for the first time and stepping forward displaying what they have to offer. Gary's bands were always spot on, starting on time with a focus set and a forward motion and development of the music. Music for music sake at the highest level.

For me before attending Berklee I had heard Gary's first recordings that were new to me of course called " Duster" and " Tong Funeral" and of course I was lucky enough to hear him play live as a side man with jazz legend Stan Getz. The venue that I heard Gary play with Stan was the Lambertville music tent in Lambertville Pennsylvania. In the summers Lambertville would have jazz in this theater in the round. I have great memories in that era of hearing not just Stan but the Woody Herman band with Sal Nistico, Dave Brubeck and the MJQ. Places like that reinforced my fortitude and wanted to become a musician and also hearing how it was done a few feet from my face while I was still in high school. Stan's band had Gary, Steve swallow and Roy Haynes. Again the route was rehearse music and music of the highest level. They went from tune to tune like the established pros they were. This was of course before Gary's RCA records and I believe the only record and I had at that time was something called " New Vibes man in town". I quickly made it a practice to make sure when something came out with Gary on it , or one of his own recordings, I got it. And my ears and my knowledge were better for it. One of my favorite records was " Throb" which had violinist Richard Green on it and also a drummer who I later would have the joy of playing with, and having a great friendship named Bill Goodwin. Recordings that are timeless gems and stand tall in the direction of the art form of jazz.

As that was developing in the music-in my third and fourth years at Berklee I had Gary for improvisation classes and ensembles. He was a no-nonsense teacher and you left with knowledge and a firm grip of what he was teaching you. To this day I'll never forget this man's commitment to what he did for us as students, he came in the room knew all of us by name the second class. This was before computers and before passing out printouts. He would go to the blackboard and write out on the board within seconds cord progressions and scales that he wanted us to investigate and study. Many times and ensembles there was printed music that we've never seen from Mike Gibbs or Carla Bley. He'll pass out a concert sheet, and if you were a saxophonist or transposing instrument you were required to transpose that music on the spot. I remember a few times he also played piano in the ensembles, and his piano playing was very inspiring. In short he was a teacher that was of great assistance to me at that point in my life but also somebody who propagated and displayed musicianship that I had to be attained. A very friendly human being to.  Let me say that his " Berklee On Line" classes are something that had it's own importance as well. ANYONE...going to Berklee today worth their salt in any shape or form, should make it their business to listen and study Gary's playing but also his career. ( read his book too!)

There are many people in this business that came to Gary's bands as sidemen that have careers today that are untouchable. There was a certain ambiance about Gary's  four mallet technique and his choice of music was always the best. Always fresh tunes and as I said before well rehearsed and totally professional from the first tune to the last whether he played a concert or a club. Is bands always started on time! You never waited for Gary Burton to start a set. That says everything especially with the way the level has slipped today and the opposite has taken place which we won't get into. I have find memories of hearing Gary and also fun memories of the period that I encountered him while a student at Berklee. There was another thing I thought I'd mention-a few times and ensembles he say to people what would you like to play? I remember one time somebody called Sonny Rollins is tune " Airegin".... Gary Play the tune without any kind of second-guessing or anything, in the period of the Steve swallow tunes some of those tunes were very tricky to people who had not been playing songs with nine bar phrases or cord progressions that had stepped out of the bebop cycle. Being around Gary and hearing him play these and demonstrate these on a professional level within a few feet of you with some of the best education you could get. As I say, to hear is to see!

I admire somebody who created such a benchmark  in the music in so many ways I'm sure I'm missing a few as I write this blog. Things that today don't exist in the same level, like having a working band constantly, employing a band, a leader that had his skills together so that the band move smoothly and concentrated on the music.

Burton has been an innovator on several fronts: virtuoso soloist as well as influential bandleader and educator. He’s discovered one future star after another for his bands: Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and, in his current quartet, the guitarist Julian Lage. Burton also ushered in the new wave of “jazz-rock fusion,” preceding Miles Davis by a couple of years. Meanwhile, as a teacher and administrator at Berklee for 33 years, he transformed the curriculum, bringing rock into the program, expanding the use of digital technology, and, more recently, initiating the school’s online education program.

I applaud Gary Burton for the career and more keys left in this music in many ways in many shapes. Also for the integrity that he has had as a human being musician educator an innovator. And that's a word that is used to freely today but yes indeed Gary Burton was a stone cold innovator. Thank you sir for touching this music so deeply and I wish you nothing but the best in your retirement. Health happiness and lots of sun and good times you've earned it. I bow deeply in your direction as somebody who has followed your career from not only a fan but a student who heard your message and the music, let this blog be a thumbs up and a huge thank you. Thank you Gary Burton!   

Tim Price Bloggin' For D'Addario Woodwinds 2017

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