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Gary Burton: Like Minds

For an all-star session with such big names as Burton, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland, Like Minds throws off surprisingly few sparks. Each is a virtuoso, to be sure. Metheny comes off like a young Johnny Smith throughout this cooperative superband session, particularly on his brisk burner “Elucidation,” and Corea sounds right at home swinging alongside the great Roy Haynes, fresh off their Bud Powell tribute tour. Holland is Holland-an ever-reliable, solidly swinging presence with the most impeccable time and intonation of any bassist in jazz (with the possible exception of George Mraz). And Burton is still a four-mallet phenomenon after all these years: an ultra-virtuoso with a highly sophisticated harmonic sense.

And yet, there’s something missing here. The aesthetic is a bit tidy. There’s no sense of blood in the music. How can there be any going out on a limb when everything is so…perfect? Only Roy Haynes, with his unpredictable ways of cutting up the beat and adding unexpected accents, offers any real surprises here. The rest is flawless, and that’s my only reservation here.

The material ranges from buoyant and crisply swinging (Metheny’s “Elucidation,” Corea’s “Straight Up and Down”) to darkly ethereal (Corea’s “Futures,” Metheny’s “Rears of Rain”) to lilting waltz-time numbers (Metheny’s “Questions and Answer,” the title track from his 1989 album, Corea’s “Windows” and Metheny’s “For a Thousand Years”). Burton’s title track, strangely reminiscent of Corea’s “Captain Marvel” from 20 years ago, is a veritable showcase for Haynes’ signature bounce on the snare drum and hip time displacement. Haynes really gets to dance on the kit on a swinging rendition of George Gershwin’s “Soon,” which plays to his jaunty instincts, particularly in the breakdown section with bassist Holland. Burton’s earthy “Country Roads,” the title track of an album he cut 30 years ago, is the loosest thing here and probably the funkiest, bluesiest thing either Burton or Metheny has ever recorded.

Like Minds marks the first time that Pat Metheny and Chick Corea have ever recorded together, and that alone merits some historical significance. But each of the participants-every one a bandleader-has recorded more compelling music on his own. This one is merely engaging.

Originally Published