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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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GARY BURTON

Lofty Fake Anagram/A Genuine Tong Funeral

BGO Records BGOCD 723

  Lofty Fake Anagram
1. June The 15, 1967
2. Feelings & Things
3. Fleurette Africaine
4. I'm Your Pal
5. Lines
6. Beach
7. Mother Of The Dead Man
8. Good Citizen Swallow
9. General Mojo Cuts Up
A Genuine Tong Funeral

1. The Opening/Interlude: Shovels/The Survivors/Grave Train
2. Death Rolls
3. Morning (Part 1)
4. Interlude: Lament/Intermission Music
5. Silent Spring
6. Fanfare/Mother Of The Dead Man
7. Some Dirge
8. Morning (Part 2)
9. The New Funeral March
10. The New National Anthem/The Survivors
Lofty Fake Anagram Personnel

Gary Burton - Vibraphone
Larry Coryell - Guitar
Steve Swallow - Bass
Bob Moses - Drums
A Genuine Tong Funeral Personnel

Gary Burton - Vibraphone
Larry Coryell - Guitar
Steve Swallow - Bass
Lonesome Dragon (alias Bob Moses) - Drums
Steve Lacy - Soprano sax
Mike Mantler - Trumpet
Leandro "Gato" Barbieri - Tenor sax
Jimmy Knepper - Trombone, bass trombone
Howard Johnson - Tuba, baritone sax
Carla Bley - Piano, organ, conductor

 

Having just reviewed an album featuring Gary Burton as an up-and-coming musician with Stan Getz's quartet, I find it particularly interesting to hear these two albums, recorded in 1967 and 1968, after Gary left Getz and formed his own quartet. They display two very different aspects of Burton's work. Lofty Fake Anagram has Gary leading his quartet - a group without any weak links. In A Genuine Tong Funeral, Gary's quartet joins a small orchestra led by pianist-composer Carla Bley.

I must say that I very much prefer the first album to the second. Lofty Fake Anagram was one of the Burton Quartet's most memorable recordings and remains hugely listenable. Most of the tunes have striking melodies. They are mostly compositions by Mike Gibbs, Steve Swallow and Gary Burton himself, plus Duke Ellington's beautiful Fleurette Africaine (with some gorgeously curvaceous guitar from Coryell). Even Carla Bley's Mother of the Dead Man is more impressive here than on the Tong Funeral album.

July the 15, 1967 is a hustling tune written by Mike Gibbs and propelled by Bob Moses' bustling drumming. Feelings and Things, also by Gibbs, is a slow, meditative piece on which Burton, Coryell and Swallow interweave twisting lines. Gary Burton's composition Lines is one of the most unforgettable tracks on the album, with Gary's vibes shimmering as he plays at unbelievable speed, with lyrical interludes. The last track, General Mojo Cuts Up, allows Coryell to play freely before the quartet launches into an exploration of free improvisation.

A Genuine Tong Funeral is anything but genuine. Its composer, Carla Bley, says: "Any similarity to Chinese music or folklore, other than in The Funeral's underlying Oriental dramatic quality was not intended". There are actually some oriental echoes in parts of the music, including the bell-like quality of Gary Burton's vibraphone and the occasionally reedy tone of Steve Lacy's soprano sax. Much of the music is decidedly funereal, as well as frequently discordant. As Alyn Shipton's sleeve-notes point out, "It has the seeds of much of her later work, from jaunty European cafe music to anarchic freedom, from an obsession with marches and anthems...to extremes of freedom". Yet the piece fails to hang together as an integrated composition. I have admired many other works by Carla Bley, especially her more recent compositions, but this just seems a depressing series of downbeat tracks with few if any memorable melodies or moments.

Another point against the Tong Funeral is that Gary Burton's quartet often gets sidelined in favour of pre-arranged passages played by the brass and saxes, and there are few opportunities for Burton or Coryell to display the extent of their powers. The fourth track allows them to play as a quartet but even here they seem less than inspired, and the title Interlude tends to downgrade their contribution.

Gary Burton revolutionised how people play the vibes - using four mallets when most of his predecessors were content with two, and leaving the reverb mechanism largely unused (as Red Norvo had done before). He approached the vibes as a keyboard instrument, like a piano, rather than a percussion instrument - stressing its ability to savour rich chords instead of just single lines. Burton deserves to be heard at his best, which is what the first album delivers but the second album disappointingly lacks.


Tony Augarde


 

 

 

 



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