Although vibraphonist Gary Burton's performing career includes jazz stints with George Shearing, Stan Getz, Chick Corea and others, he also toured and recorded with composer-bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla's New Tango Quintet in the 1980s. The latter experience fuels this radiant 12-tune session featuring Piazzolla alumni first reunited on Burton's 1998 Concord release, Astor Piazzolla Reunion.
Burton has always commanded the bars in standout jazz solos, often with four mallets. Here, he reaches a higher pinnacle, triumphing over stylistic and technical hurdles of the tango to improvise with utmost creativity, clarity and confidence. The leader's impassioned improv on the title tune, his sweeping magnificence on the graceful "Invierno Porteno" and other moments reveal new paths for his instrument. Still, he shares the spotlight equitably, allowing tango pros Fernando Suarez-Paz (violin), Horacio Malvicino (guitar), Hector Console (bass), Marcelo Nisinman (bandoneon), Pablo Ziegler (piano, eight tracks) and Nicolas Ledesma (piano) to individually excel.
While Burton's engaging musicianship is reason enough to own this album (and its earlier companion), what really makes these tango pieces sizzle is fervent, fluid and tight ensemble playing, particularly on fiery, brief pieces such as "Fuga y Misterio," "Michelangelo," and "Milonga Loca." Capturing the gracility, ebullience and heat of Piazzolla's music, Libertango is a potent, if not perfect, homage that shows that Burton's duties as Berklee College Executive VP have not eclipsed his performing capabilities.