Gary Burton

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Gary Burton
Burton in 2008
Burton in 2008
Background information
Born (1943-01-23) January 23, 1943 (age 81)
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 teaching 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 to 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 Jonathan Chong in Provincetown, Massachusetts.[11] Burton's current partner is Dustin Le.[12]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Recording date Title Label Year released Notes
1961-07-06, -07 New Vibe Man in Town RCA 1961
1962-09-14, -15 Who Is Gary Burton? RCA 1963
1963-02-14, -20
3 in Jazz RCA 1963
1963-08-14 – -16 Something's Coming! RCA 1964
1964-12-21, -22 The Groovy Sound of Music RCA 1965
1966-04-05, -06 The Time Machine RCA 1966
1966-09-19 – -21 Tennessee Firebird RCA 1967
1967-04-18 – -20 Duster RCA 1967 Quartet
1967-07 A Genuine Tong Funeral RCA 1968
1967-08-15 – 17 Lofty Fake Anagram RCA 1967
1968-02-23 Gary Burton Quartet in Concert RCA 1968 Live
1968-09-24 – 27 Country Roads & Other Places RCA 1969
1969-06-02 – -05 Throb Atlantic 1969
1969-11-04 Paris Encounter with Stéphane Grappelli Atlantic 1972
1969-09-02 – -04,
Good Vibes Atlantic 1970
1970-07-23 Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett Atlantic 1971
1971-06-02 Live in Tokyo Atlantic 1971 Live at Sankei Hall, Tokyo
Alone at Last Atlantic 1972 3 tracks from live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
1972-11-06 Crystal Silence with Chick Corea ECM 1973
1973-03-05, -06 The New Quartet ECM 1973
1973-06-25, -26 In The Public Interest with Mike Gibbs Polydor 1974
1973-12 Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra ECM 1974
1974-05-13, -14 Hotel Hello with Steve Swallow ECM 1975
1974-07-23, -24 Ring with Eberhard Weber ECM 1974
1974-07-26, -27 Matchbook with Ralph Towner ECM 1975
1975-12 Dreams So Real ECM 1975
1976-11 Passengers with Eberhard Weber ECM 1977
1978-01 Times Square ECM 1978
1978-10-23 – -25 Duet with Chick Corea ECM 1979
1979-10-28 In Concert, Zürich, October 28, 1979 with Chick Corea ECM 1980 Live at Limmathaus, Zürich
1980-06 Easy as Pie ECM 1981
1981-01 Live in Cannes Jazz World 1996 Live at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
1982-01 Picture This ECM 1982
1982-09 Lyric Suite for Sextet with Chick Corea ECM 1983
1984-11 Real Life Hits ECM 1985
1985-05 Slide Show with Ralph Towner ECM 1986
1985-07-28 Gary Burton And The Berklee Allstars JVC 1986
1986-06 Whiz Kids ECM 1987
1986-07 The New Tango with Astor Piazzolla Atlantic 1987 Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
1988? Times Like These GRP 1988
1989-05-06 – -10 Reunion with Pat Metheny, Will Lee, Peter Erskine, Mitchel Forman GRP 1990
1990-03-29 Right Time, Right Place with Paul Bley GNP Crescendo 1990
1991? Cool Nights GRP 1991
Six Pack GRP 1992
1993-05 It's Another Day with Rebecca Parris GRP 1994
Face to Face with Makoto Ozone GRP 1995
1994-11-08 Four Duke with Jay Leonhart, Joe Beck, Terry Clarke LRC 1995 also released as
Play the Music of Duke Ellington
1996-09-20 – -22 Departure Concord Jazz 1997
1996-12-02 – -05 Ástor Piazzolla Reunion: A Tango Excursion Concord Jazz 1998
1997-06 Native Sense - The New Duets with Chick Corea Stretch 1997
1997-12-15 – -17 Like Minds with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland Concord Jazz 1998
1999-01-20 – -24 Libertango: The Music of Ástor Piazzolla Concord Jazz 2000
2000-05-11, -23, -24,
For Hamp, Red, Bags, and Cal Concord Jazz 2001
2001-08-14, -15,
2001-10-14, -15
Virtuosi with Makoto Ozone Concord Jazz 2002
2003-09-16 – -18 Generations Concord Jazz 2004
2004-11-08, -10 Next Generation Concord Jazz 2005
2007-06-10, -11 Quartet Live with Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow, Antonio Sanchez Concord Jazz 2009 Live at Yoshi's, Oakland, California
The New Crystal Silence with Chick Corea Concord Jazz 2008 [2CD] Live
2011? Common Ground Mack Avenue 2011
2012? Hot House with Chick Corea Concord Jazz 2012
2013-03-21 – -23 Time Thread with Makoto Ozone Universal 2013
2013? Guided Tour Mack Avenue 2013 [13]


  • Works (ECM, 1984)[LP]
  • Collection (GRP, 1996)
  • Take Another Look. A Career Retrospective (Mack Avenue, 2018)[5LP][14]


As sideman[edit]

With Thomas Clausen

  • Café Noir (Intermusic, 1991)
  • Flowers and Trees (MA Music, 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's Three-Four The Blues (CBS, 1961)
  • The Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland (Columbia, 1962)

With Stan Getz

With George Shearing

With Eberhard Weber

With others

Grammy Awards[edit]

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. ^ "What happened to Gary Burton?". September 13, 2020. Retrieved October 16, 2022.
  13. ^ "Gary Burton | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  14. ^ "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]