Scottish National Jazz Orchestra

presents the music of Wayne Shorter

featuring Gary Burton


Gary Burton’s forty-five years as a top-ranking jazz musician have been marked by several key features. Not the least of these are the four-mallet virtuosity with which he makes the vibes sing and the eclecticism that has brought Brahms, Astor Piazzolla and Duke Ellington into his repertoire. There’s also his unfailing ability as a talent-spotter, Pat Metheny, John Scofield and a certain Tommy Smith being among those who have enjoyed formative experience in Burton’s band.


The features that these concerts with SNJO highlight particularly, however, are Burton’s brilliance as an interpretative player and improviser. From his earliest recordings Burton showed an ear for highly individual jazz composing talents - he was an early champion of Michael Gibbs, with whose arranging work he is reunited in this programme, and has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Carla Bley’s music – and jazz composers don’t get much more individual or talented than Wayne Shorter.


Born and raised in Indiana, Burton taught himself to play the vibraphone and made his first recording in Nashville with country guitarists Hark Garland and Chet Atkins. Two years later, having made his first album as a leader for RCA, he left his studies at Berklee College of Music to tour with George Shearing. Then as a member of Stan Getz’s quartet he won Down Beat magazine’s Talent Deserving Wider Recognition award in 1965.


By the time he left Getz two years later, Burton had already recorded three albums under his own name for RCA and was beginning to change the face of jazz by borrowing rhythms and sonorities from rock music while maintaining jazz’s emphasis on improvisation and harmonic complexity. Albums such as Duster and Lofty Fake Anagram, featuring guitarist Larry Coryell and bassist Steve Swallow, established Burton and his quartet as progenitors of the jazz fusion movement and won Burton personal recognition including Down Beat magazine’s Jazzman of the Year award.


The youngest ever musician to receive that honour, Burton moved on to record with Keith Jarrett and Stephane Grappelli in the 1970s and in a long association with ECM Records he turned to the rarely heard duo format, recording with Chick Corea, Steve Swallow and Ralph Towner, as well as introducing Pat Metheny to his band, his label and the world at large.


Also in the 1970s, Burton returned to his alma mater, Berklee College of Music, where he began his music education career as a teacher of percussion and improvisation, going on to be named Dean of Curriculum in 1985. In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate of music from the college, and in 1996, he was appointed Executive Vice President, responsible for overseeing the daily operation of the college.  


During this time he remained one of the world’s top performing jazz musicians, working with frequent collaborators Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland as well as leading his own band, which introduced another world class protégé in guitarist Julian Lage, and adding to a list of Grammy nominations that now numbers fifteen.


Since his “retirement” from Berklee, Burton’s creativity has continued unabated, with tours and recordings with Corea, long-time pianist Makoto Ozone, French accordionist Richard Galliano, Spanish pianist-composer Polo Orti and the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. His most recent project, in collaboration with Metheny, Swallow and drummer Antonio Sanchez, continues the Gary Burton Quartet tradition with tours across the world and a spectacularly successful CD, Quartet Live, released earlier this year.


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