The Gary Burton Quartet
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The Gary Burton Quartet Biography

Gary Burton - Pat Metheny - Steve Swallow - Antonio Sanchez

Great partnerships only come along now and then in the jazz world and for QUARTET LIVE, several overlapping combinations of legendary musicians got together to celebrate the ground-breaking Gary Burton Quartet.  Bassist Steve Swallow joined with vibraphonist Gary Burton in 1967 to form the first Gary Burton Quartet and they continued working together for over two decades.  Then in the early 70's, 19-year old guitarist Pat Metheny began his career by taking over the guitar chair in the Burton group for three years, the start of a 35-year long musical friendship between the vibist and guitarist. A decade ago Metheny discovered drummer Antonio Sanchez, inviting him to join The Pat Metheny Group, and they have been playing together ever since.  These long-lasting, overlapping musical partnerships are the foundation of this landmark recording, great artists who really know each other's playing in depth. Metheny came up with the idea to revisit the Gary Burton Quartet, the band that had been his entry into the jazz world. "For me, as a teenager in Missouri just starting to appreciate jazz, Gary's group was the most innovative band around.  And, it was my dream to someday be a part of it." Everyone thought it would be fun to perform as the Gary Burton Quartet again and a concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival was scheduled.  It turned out to be more than just fun.  The musicians' rapport and the freshness of the playing was so energizing that the group decided to take it on the road, touring in Japan and the USA the following year.  That still wasn't enough, so the group reunited once more for a European tour in 2008, and will add some more performances in 2009 in the USA and Canada. QUARTET LIVE was recorded while on tour at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, CA.  Burton says, "Without a doubt the level of the group was at an all-time high that week-end. At Yoshi's, everything just clicked."

The Gary Burton Quartet was always known for the up and coming musicians who contributed to the repertoire.  QUARTET LIVE starts off with Chick Corea's "Sea Journey," one of many songs Corea wrote for the Burton group.  Carla Bley also wrote extensively for the quartet (the group dedicated two entire albums to Bley's music). She is represented here by "Olhos de Gato," and "Syndrome."  Other composers who wrote original songs for the Burton group include Keith Jarrett ("Coral"), and of course, Burton, Swallow and Metheny.  Burton's "Walter L" honors the legendary guitarist Walter L. (Hank) Garland, who gave Gary his start when the vibist was 17.  For Metheny, "Walter L" was a favorite song and the first song he played with Burton, when as a student, he had the chance to jam with him at a college jazz festival. Pat's composing talents are also considerable and are amply represented here by tunes composed during his Burton Quartet years: the fast and furious Missouri Uncompromised, the haunting B and G, and Question and Answer, one of Pat's most well-known pieces. As a composer, Steve Swallow has written songs for a large number of recording projects and bands, including many pieces for the Burton Quartet. Two are included here:  Falling Grace (Swallow's first composition for Burton and considered a standard by many jazz musicians) and Hullo, Bolinas, a catchy jazz waltz that suggests what Chopin might have sounded like if he was reborn today as a jazz musician.

Burton was already recognized as a major jazz artist before he was out of his teens, winning polls and earning high praise from both critics and fellow musicians.  As a vibraphonist, he is considered a legend and a pioneer of new techniques. With his new band, the Gary Burton Quartet, he was the first jazz musician to bring country and rock music influences into jazz, several years before jazz fusion became widely popular (it was first called Jazz/Rock by the music press). He continues pioneering new and diverse musical directions to this day, including popularizing jazz duets with Chick Corea and becoming recognized as an expert interpreter of tango music.

After achieving international recognition as a member of the Gary Burton Quartet, Metheny formed the Pat Metheny Group and soon established himself as one of the most successful guitarists and band leaders in modern jazz.  He has won more Grammy awards than any other jazz musician and his records and performances are among the most popular of any jazz artist. He is a fearless innovator, always exploring new styles of music and new guitar technology. And he has advanced the standards of jazz record production more than any other modern day musician. During his years with Burton, Steve Swallow transitioned from playing upright acoustic bass to electric bass, on which he is now considered one of the top players in the world.  He is known not only for his ensemble work but also his strong, recognizable soloing style.  Swallow has a gift for being the ultimate team player, always supportive and reliable, but also a constant contributor of ideas and concepts to any enterprise he joins. He is definitely one of those people who fits the description "a musician's musician."

Antonio Sanchez, a native of Mexico, arrived in the USA to study music at Berklee College in Boston, where Gary Burton was serving as Executive Vice President and Pat Metheny (a former Berklee faculty member) made occasional visits to meet with students.  Antonio's talents shone through quickly and as he finished school, he was invited to join the Pat Metheny Group.  Just as Pat made the transition from student to pro when he joined the band of his idol, Gary Burton, Antonio followed the same path into Metheny's very successful group.  Now in great demand for recording and concerts, Sanchez continues playing with Metheny, but also works frequently with other major jazz artists.

The special challenge for a jazz reunion is to achieve something more than simply playing the old songs again.  As is immediately evident on this latest configuration of the Gary Burton Quartet that unites three of its original members and one very adept new member, these jazz legends take the music into new territory.  According to Burton, "We have all continued to evolve as players, so we play the songs in fresh new ways now.  We've all become better improvisers, too.  But, more importantly, though we have each gone on to new ventures, when we got back together again the rapport that always came so easily is still front and center.  This has been the most fun I've had in a very long time."

Four legendary musicians, improvisers and composers all, each at the top of his game, bringing modern jazz history to life on QUARTET LIVE. The Gary Burton Quartet Revisited!

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