Gary Burton

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Gary Burton
Burton in 2008
Burton in 2008
Background information
Born (1943-01-23) January 23, 1943 (age 79)
Anderson, Indiana, U.S.
Years active1960–2017

Gary Burton (born January 23, 1943)[1] is an American jazz vibraphonist, composer, and educator. Burton developed a pianistic style of four-mallet technique as an alternative to the prevailing two-mallet technique. This approach caused him to be heralded as an innovator, and his sound and technique are widely imitated.[2] He is also known for pioneering fusion jazz and popularizing the duet format in jazz, as well as being a major figure in music education from his 30 years at the Berklee College of Music.


Burton was born in Anderson, Indiana, United States.[1] Beginning music at six years old, he mostly taught himself to play marimba and vibraphone.[3] He began studying piano at age sixteen while finishing high school at Princeton Community High School in Princeton, Indiana (1956–60). He has cited jazz pianist Bill Evans as the inspiration for his approach to the vibraphone.[4]

Burton attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts,[3] in 1960–61 and the Stan Kenton Clinic at Indiana University in 1960. He studied with Herb Pomeroy and soon befriended composer and arranger Michael Gibbs.[1] After establishing his career during the 1960s, he returned to join the staff of Berklee from 1971–2004, serving first as professor, then dean, and executive vice president, during his last decade at the college. In 1989, Burton received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee.[5]

Early in his career, at the behest of Nashville saxophonist Boots Randolph,[3] Burton moved to Nashville, Tennessee and recorded with several musicians from the area, including guitarist Hank Garland, pianist Floyd Cramer and guitarist Chet Atkins.

Burton toured the U.S. and Japan with pianist George Shearing.[6] Shearing asked Burton to write a whole album of compositions for him which were released as Out of the Woods in 1965. Burton described the album in his autobiography, Learning to Listen, as his "most ambitious effort at composing and arranging".[7] Burton played with saxophonist Stan Getz from 1964 to 1966.[1] It was during this time that he appeared with the band in the movie Get Yourself a College Girl, playing "Girl from Ipanema" with Astrud Gilberto. In 1967, he formed the Gary Burton Quartet with guitarist Larry Coryell, drummer Roy Haynes, and bassist Steve Swallow.[1] Predating the jazz-rock fusion[6] craze of the 1970s, the group's first album, Duster,[1] combined jazz, country, and rock. However, some of Burton's previous albums (notably Tennessee Firebird and The Time Machine, both from 1966) had already shown his inclination toward such experimentation. After Coryell left the quartet in the late 1960s, Burton worked with guitarists Jerry Hahn, David Pritchard, Mick Goodrick, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Julian Lage.

Burton was named DownBeat magazine's Jazzman of the Year in 1968 (the youngest to receive that title) and won his first Grammy Award in 1972. The following year Burton began a forty-year collaboration with pianist Chick Corea,[8] recognized for popularizing the format of jazz duet performance. Their eight albums won Grammy Awards in 1979, 1981, 1997, 1999, 2009, and 2013.

Burton has played with a wide variety of jazz musicians, including Gato Barbieri, Carla Bley, Chick Corea, Peter Erskine, Stan Getz, Hank Garland, Stephane Grappelli, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, B. B. King, Steve Lacy, Pat Metheny, Makoto Ozone, Tiger Okoshi, Astor Piazzolla, Tommy Smith, Ralph Towner, and Eberhard Weber.[1]

Burton is known for his variation of traditional four-mallet grip which has come to be known as "Burton Grip," and is popular among jazz vibraphonists,[1] as well as some concert marimbists, including Pius Cheung and Evelyn Glennie.

From 2004 to 2008, Burton hosted a weekly jazz radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. In 2011, he released his first album for Mack Avenue Records, entitled Common Ground, featuring the New Gary Burton Quartet (with Julian Lage, Scott Colley, and Antonio Sanchez). In 2013, the group released Guided Tour, their second recording for Mack Avenue Records. Burton's autobiography, Learning to Listen, was published by Berklee Press in August 2013 and was voted "Jazz Book of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Burton retired from performing in March 2017 following a farewell tour with pianist and longtime collaborator Makoto Ozone.[9][10]

Personal life[edit]

By the 1980s, Burton was in a gay relationship, and he came out publicly in a 1994 radio interview with Terry Gross, making him one of the rather few openly gay jazz musicians of prominence. In 2013, he married his partner of nine years, Jonathan Chong, in Provincetown, Massachusetts.[11]


As leader[edit]


  • Works (ECM, 1988)
  • Collection (GRP, 1996)
  • Take Another Look. A Career Retrospective (Mack Avenue, 2018), 5 Vinyl Box Set[13]


  • Live from the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2013 (Mack Avenue, 2014)
  • Hommage a Eberhard Weber (ECM, 2015)

As sideman[edit]

With Chet Atkins

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Eric Clapton

With Thomas Clausen

  • Café Noir (Intermusic, 1991)
  • Flowers and Trees (MA Music, 1992)

With Bruce Cockburn

  • The Charity of Night (True North, 1996)

With Floyd Cramer

  • Last Date (RCA Victor, 1960)

With Eddie Daniels

  • Benny Rides Again (GRP, 1992)

With Hank Garland

  • After the Riot at Newport (RCA Victor, 1960) – released under the name The Nashville All-Stars)
  • Jazz Winds from a New Direction (Columbia, 1961) – also released as Hank Garland & Gary Burton Three-Four The Blues (1961)
  • The Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland (Columbia, 1962)

With Stan Getz

With Tim Hardin

With Quincy Jones

With k.d. lang

With Livingston Taylor

With Jay Leonhart

  • Four Duke (Absolute Spain, 1995)

With Arif Mardin

  • Journey (Atlantic, 1974) - recorded in 1973

With Ástor Piazzolla

  • The New Tango (Atlantic, 1987)

With George Shearing

With Howard Jones

With Steve Swallow

With Eberhard Weber

With Jon Weber


Year Nominee / work Award Result
1972 Alone at Last Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist Won
1979 Duet (with Chick Corea) Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group Won
1982 In Concert, Zürich, October 28, 1979 (with Chick Corea) Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group Won
1998 "Rhumbata", Native Sense (with Chick Corea) Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Won
2000 Like Minds (with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes and Dave Holland) Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group Won
2009 The New Crystal Silence (with Chick Corea) Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance Won
2012 Hot House (with Chick Corea) Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 70/1. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ Corley, Cheryl (May 8, 2004). "Gary Burton Steps Down, Out: Jazz Vibraphonist Moves On After Three Decades at Berklee" Archived December 26, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. NPR.
  3. ^ a b c Myers, Marc (July 27, 2010). "Interview: Gary Burton". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on August 5, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  4. ^ DeLuke, R.J. (May 25, 2009). "Gary Burton: Forging Ahead". All About Jazz. Retrieved May 7, 2022.
  5. ^ Joyce Linehan (March 18, 2010). "Gary Burton Performs 50-Year Retrospective, April 8" Archived December 26, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Berklee College of Music.
  6. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Gary Burton | Biography & History" Archived December 26, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. AllMusic. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  7. ^ Gary Burton (August 1, 2013). Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton: An Autobiography. Berklee Press. ISBN 978-1-4803-5464-7.
  8. ^ Kelman, John (September 2, 2009). "Chick Corea/Gary Burton: Crystal Silence – The ECM Recordings 1972–79". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on September 7, 2009. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  9. ^ Rothaus, Steve (February 27, 2017). "Jazz superstar Gary Burton's final concert tour stops in South Florida". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on July 22, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  10. ^ Chinen, Nate (June 9, 2017). "Gary Burton: Retiring The Mallets". NPR. Archived from the original on July 21, 2018. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  11. ^ Gavin, James (2001). Homophobia in Jazz Archived April 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved April 17, 2012
  12. ^ "Gary Burton | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  13. ^ "Gary Burton: Take Another Look: A Career Retrospective (Mack Avenue)". February 16, 2019. Archived from the original on July 20, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.

External links[edit]