Recently retired from Berklee's faculty after 33 years, Gary Burton shows off his first new band since '97 on Next Generation (Concord). It's a group of talented youngsters. Ukranian pianist Vadim Neselovskyi, 26, comps unpredictably, from low-register ostinatos on "Ques Sez" to repeated chordal jabs on "Get Up and Go." "Clarity" is a brilliant duet between Burton and the precocious guitarist Julian Lage, 17, who came to Burton's attention at 12!
If "Clarity"'s blend is smooth, it gets cerebral between Burton and Neselovskyi on "Prelude for Vibes" and "My Romance," where the two play tricky unison and harmony lines. "Romance" is so cleverly reharmonized that the tonal center nearly vanishes. The highlight is "Fuga," from Samuel Barber's 1949 "Sonata for Piano." Neselovskyi's arrangement of the theme swings intensely and intellectually with support from bassist Luques Curtis and drummer James Williams, both 21.