Gary Burton: Something's Coming

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Vibraphonist Gary Burton has had an extraordinary career. The four-mallet pioneer and jazz-fusion trailblazer has won seven Grammys and continues to make superb music in the States and abroad. I've always been fond of his 1960s recordings. Through these albums, you can hear jazz transition in the hands of one young artist, shifting from jazz-pop (Groovy Sound of Music) to jazz-samba (with Stan Getz), jazz-pop rock (Time Machine), jazz-country (Tennessee Firebird), Latin-jazz with George Shearing, jazz-fusion (Duster) and beyond. One of my favorites by Gary during this period is Something's Coming.

Recorded in August 1963, Something's Coming features Gary Burton (vib), Jim Hall (g), Chuck Israels (b) and Larry Bunker (d). There are jazz standards (On Green Dolphin Street), abstract originals (Mike Gibbs' Six Improvisatory Sketches and Jim Hall's Careful) and Broadway show tunes (the album's title track, from West Side Story, which is the album's high point for me). What makes this album particularly special is how Gary and Jim interact—circling each other, musically, and playing off each other.

The album was produced for RCA by George Avakian. Both Jim and Gary were recording separately for the label in 1963, and bringing them together must have seemed like a natural move for George, given each artist's musical sophistication and passion for improvisation. Gary was just 20 at the time, and like Herbie Hancock (who was 23 in '63), he was a prodigy, exhibiting enormous jazz skills and depth. Jim was 33 and had been recording extensively since the 1950s. Israels and Bunker had been part of the Bill Evans Trio.

As with Undercurrent , Jim's first duet album with Bill Evans in 1962, you can hear deft improvisation swordplay on Something's Coming. Breathtaking stuff.

JazzWax clip: Here's Something's Coming from the album of the same name...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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