Gary Burton ‘Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra’ (ECM) 3/5

Gary-BurtonAs part of ECM’s CD re-issue programme which handily comes in slimline CD packaging, this original 1973 release is a welcome reminder of the long-term association that vibraphonist and leader Gary Burton has with the label and features members of the NDR Symphony Orchestra conduced by Mike Gibbs. In fact the album coincided with the very beginning of the collaboration with ECM since the first actual recording by Gary Burton’s ‘New Quartet’ was made in March 1973 and ‘Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra’ was recorded in December of that year. Both albums feature guitarist Michael Goodrick and the compositions and arranging skills of Mike Gibbs who is the author of all bar one of the numbers featured here. The orchestrations work best on compositions such as ‘Phases’ which, in its use of bass solo and ensemble work, hints at ‘Sketches of Spain’, though there is just an element of more avant-garde musings in Burton’s own space-like solo. An atmospheric Mahler-esque piece ‘Three’ is another highlight with strings and vibes combining well and the use of layered textures is repeated on the lengthy medley of an opener, ‘Nocturne Vulgaire/Arise, her eyes’.Of course these early albums pre-date the terrific ‘Dream so Real’ set from 1975 where Steve Swallow and Bob Moses formed part of the band as well as revealing a then relatively unknown Pat Metheny who would go on to great things and was a band member between 1974 and 1976. Nonetheless, this recording represents an interesting phase in Gary Burton’s career post-Atlantic and in so far as it exemplifies his chamber jazz period is far more introspective in overall approach.

Tim Stenhouse