Gary Burton - Seven Songs For Quartet and Chamber Orchestra (1974/2014) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Artist: Gary Burton Quartet And Members Of The NDR-Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg, Michael Gibbs
Title: Seven Songs For Quartet and Chamber Orchestra
Genre: Jazz, Post Bop, Straight-Ahead Jazz, Mainstream Jazz, Modern Classical, Progressive Jazz, Chamber Music, Vibraphone/Marimba Jazz
Label: © ECM Records GmbH | ECM Reviews
Release Date: 1974/2014
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Recorded: December 1973 in Hamburg
If one were to draw a line between the ensemble aesthetics of Eberhard Weber and Keith Jarrett, then one might plot the compositions of orchestral jazz legend Mike Gibbs somewhere along the way. Born in 1937 in what was then Southern Rhodesia, and a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Gibbs has laid down a musical path as diverse as his travels. On Seven Songs for Chamber Orchestra, one gains vision of a mind looking not so much to cross over into uncharted waters as to expand the inclusivity of jazz’s already broad topography. At the heart of this project is Gibbs’s most famous student, the inimitable Gary Burton, who presents a lovingly realized program of his mentor’s own design. “Nocturne Vulgaire” sets the album’s plaintive tone with a groundswell of strings, into which Burton drops his mercurial sound. This delicate blend of mallets and bows continues unabated in “Arise, Her Eyes” (Steve Swallow), the only non-Gibbs number on the album. Mick Goodrick’s steady strums and Ted Seibs’s cymbal-heavy drumming make the most of the tender “Throb,” as Burton’s vibes glow like phosphorescent blood in the piece’s ambulatory body. “By Way Of A Preface” spins the album’s densest song. Its abstract beginnings carry over into a gorgeously perpetual solo from Goodrick, while Swallow makes his memorable mark in the pensive confines of “Phases.” The vast open fields that underlie “The Rain Before It Falls” give way to the chromatic wonders of “Three,” in which Burton and Goodrick’s relays emerge with all the inevitability of a final word.
This is a dream album for admirers of both Burton and Weber, combining as it does the former’s dulcet precision and the latter’s lush arrangements, and is therefore well worth tracking down (a CD-reissue is long overdue). Burton’s ability to carry a tune to fruition is only enhanced by Gibbs’s affected settings, which hardly make a dent in their emotional reserves. If jazz is about discovering the integrity of every lifted voice, then certainly Seven Songs rises from its murky waters with just a few of many unheard treasures.
While there is still a handful of ECM titles from vibraphonist Gary Burton that remain unreleased on CD, perhaps the most unique of the bunch is Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra, originally issued by the German label in 1974 and the first of two collaborations with Zimbabwe-born, British-resident composer/pianist/trombonist Michael Gibbs. The similarly intriguing In the Public Interest (Polydor, 1974) is a more conventionally configured large ensemble with horns, reeds, piano, bass and drums; Seven Songs, on the other hand, remains the more unusual of the two, teaming Burton's quartet with members of Hamburg, Germany's NDR-Symphony Orchestra, performing music arranged, conducted and largely composed by Gibbs.
The result is an album unlike any other in Burton's recorded work, and that includes everything that's followed, right up to Guided Tour (Mack Avenue, 2013). Amidst Burton's lengthy discography (nearly sixty as a leader/co-leader and literally hundreds as a guest) his tenure with ECM—from his 1972 debut with Chick Corea on the classic Crystal Silence through to his 1987 swan song, Whiz Kids—remains some of the most experimental and compelling music of his career, with Seven Songs ranking alongside his pre-ECM classic collaboration with Carla Bley, A Genuine Tong Funeral (RCA, 1968), as his most forward-reaching and outré-thinking.
Seven Songs' overdue first-time CD release as part of ECM's seven-disc Re:solutions series, on CD—four for the first time and one previously only available for a limited time in Japan—vinyl and high resolution digital formats, only serves to emphasize just how unorthodox Burton had become by that time. A staggering instrumentalist with a reputation for solos of instant perfection and stunning construction, he may not have been a prolific writer, but he always chose his source material well. Some of Seven Songs' compositions, all by Gibbs with the exception of bassist Steve Swallow's "Arise, Her Eyes"—clearly a Burton favorite, already appearing on Crystal Silence, Throb (Atlantic, 1969) and Alone at Last (Atlantic, 1971)—were not new. Along with Burton's recording, "Throb" first appeared on Gibbs' Michael Gibbs (Deram, 1970), while "Three"—here, initially more subdued but ultimately turning more cinematically expansive, only to end in a long-held pedal tone over which Burton has the final say—premiered on Just Ahead (Polydor, 1972).
Placed in the collaborative context of a quartet and chamber orchestra—Burton's group also including Swallow, perennially underappreciated guitarist Mick Goodrick and Ted Seibs, a little known drummer whose only recorded appearance of note appears to be this recording—Gibbs' arrangements go far beyond conventional "groups with strings" pairings and, instead, integrates the two seamlessly and with relentless invention and imagination.
The opening "Nocturne Vulgaire is more contemporary classicism than jazz—the entire album an early example of the label's aversion to stylistic pigeonholing. Acting as an abstruse fanfare, Burton finally enters two minutes in, at first with the orchestra, but gradually going a cappella, his dark-hued and spare segue into "Arise, Her Eyes" so subtle as to be almost imperceptible; by the time Swallow engages and the strings re-enter, acting largely as response to Burton's call, the bassist's familiar theme seems suddenly just there.
Elsewhere, the entire quartet integrates with the orchestra more fully. On the appropriately pulsing "Throb," Swallow and Seibs keep things subtle until Burton begins his solo. Still, even as it evolves, with Goodrick's bright-edged chordal support turning to contrapuntal linear foil for Burton when the orchestra reenters, the quartet's restraint is both admirable and exactly what's required. It's a quality that not only defines the quartet's work throughout the set, but the recording as a whole, even though there are plenty of notable solos from Burton, Swallow and Goodrick, while Seibs' delicate but ideal support makes his ultimate disappearance from the scene a real curiosity.
Burton would continue to source Gibbs' music on subsequent recordings—in particular on 1974's Ring (ECM), which includes two tunes ("Tunnel of Love" and "Unfinished Sympathy") that Gibbs would subsequently release under his own name on his superb 1975 recording, The Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra (Bronze, 1975). But Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra remains a captivating anomaly in both Burton and Gibbs' careers, and its release as part of ECM's Re:solutions series only serves to highlight why. --John Kelman, All About Jazz
1. Nocturne Vulgaire / Arise, Her Eyes 09:33
2. Throb 05:29
3. By Way of a Preface 04:36
4. Phases 07:25
5. The Rain Before It Falls 04:07
6. Three 06:13
Gary Burton Quartet:
Gary Burton, vibraharp
Michael Goodrick, guitar
Steve Swallow, bass
Ted Seibs, drums
Members Of The NDR-Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg
Michael Gibbs, conductor, composer
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