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09/12/13

Gary Burton New Quartet
Guided Tour
Mack Avenue Records

Guided Tour is the second album by this band. Gary Burton is the preeminent four-mallet vibraphone player in jazz. Julian Lage is an artistically mature, technically immaculate 24-year-old guitarist. He has been making records with Burton since he was 15. They intertwine their two treble voices—overlapping in pitch, differentiated in timbre—and make intricate designs in the moment. Scott Colley is a rock-solid bassist. The presence of drummer Antonio Sanchez, with his unique package of informational density, aggression and musicality, assures that this elegant ensemble never sounds soft.

There is continuous vivid content like Lage’s detailed, layered, graceful exposition on Burton’s “Jane Fonda Called Again.” As for Burton, if he has ever taken a solo lacking in poise and intelligent form, it was too long ago to remember. He can be lyrically rapt at any tempo, from slow and hesitant (Colley’s eulogy for his father, “Legacy”) to spiky (Lage’s “Sunday’s Uncle”).

On Guided Tour and also on their first album, 2011’s Common Ground, almost all the tunes are medium tempo, six to seven minutes long, and composed by band members. Allowing sidemen to bring in music is a popular way to make a jazz record, but it can be limiting. Guided Tour contains nice but unexceptional songs that become truly interesting only when the solos start. The most creative moment on Common Ground came on the only standard, “My Funny Valentine.” Here it comes on “Once Upon a Summertime.” It is fascinating to hear how these players withhold and suspend and finally release it, reinvented, Lage and Burton penetrating the veil of memory to relive lost summertimes. An album of Michel Legrand songs by this quartet could be epic.

Originally published in September 2013
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