Happy Birthday Gary Burton

January 23, 1943

A tribute to the virtuosic vibraphonist

Vibraphonist Gary Burton was born on January 23, 1943 in Anderson, Indiana.

Unlike most vibraphonists, the vibes and marimba were his first instruments, starting when he taught himself when he was six (although he had piano lessons when he was 16).

Burton spent time in Nashville during 1959-60, performing and recording with guitarist Hank Garland.

He attended the Berklee College of Music in 1960-61, recorded with drummer Joe Morello, led an impressive series of recordings for RCA (starting in 1961), was a member of the George Shearing Quintet during 1963, and played regularly with Stan Getz during 1964-66.

In 1967 he formed the Gary Burton Quartet which featured guitarist Larry Coryell and could be considered one of the earliest fusion bands due to Coryell’s rockish playing and Burton’s open-minded approach in playing some pop and rock tunes.

Burton’s group later featured such guitarists as Jerry Hahn, Mick Goodrick, Pat Metheny and John Scofield.

The vibraphonist, who used four rather than two mallets and considered Bill Evans to be one of his main influences, recorded an innovative solo album in 1969 that included a stunning version of “No More Blues”; he also had notable musical partnerships with Chick Corea and Makoto Ozone.

Burton was a major force in jazz for a half-century, not only as a vibraphonist and bandleader but as an educator, teaching and working at Berklee during 1971-2004

Gary Burton retired from performing in March 2017.

The vibraphonist is featured on an unaccompanied version of “O Grande Amour” from April 13, 2010.

-Scott Yanow


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