1. Joy Spring
2. Over the Rainbow
3. Like Someone in Love
4. Minor Blues
5. Our Waltz
6. So Many Things
7. Sir John
8. You Stepped out of a Dream
9. All the Things You Are
10. Three-four, The Blues
Gary Burton - Vibes
Gene Cherico - Bass (tracks 1-8)
Joe Morello - Drums
Hank Garland - Guitar (tracks 9-14)
Joe Benjamin - Bass (tracks 9-14)
The word "New" in the title of this 1961 album is particularly relevant when talking about Gary Burton. He pioneered a new method of playing the vibraphone, using four mallets instead of two. The importance of this device can be measured by the fact that most vibes players nowadays use four mallets. Burton also devised a method of bending notes by means of clever handling of the mallets. So you could say that this was an epoch-making album.
As the title suggests, New Vibe Man in Town was Burton's
debut album as a leader, and he was placed very much in the limelight
by being accompanied simply by bass and drums. Mind you, the drummer
is Joe Morello, who can be almost overbearing at times. For example,
the opening of You Stepped Out of a Dream is ragged because
Morello's fierce drums fail to cohere with Gary Burton's playing.
Similarly Sir John begins with a bass solo from Gene Cherico
before Morello enters and the drummer doesn't always match the rhythm
of Cherico's bass.
But these are minor flaws in what is generally a magnificent album, showing off Gary Burton's talent: his dexterity and his unfailing swing. The use of four mallets might seem a mere gimmick but they enable Burton to play speedy strings of notes, and chords as well as single lines. His virtuosity is astonishing, especially considering that he was only 18 when he recorded this album. The review of this album in Down Beat magazine echoed Emperor Joseph's complaint about Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro - "too many notes". But Burton's artistry is enhanced, not diminished, by his dexterity.
Despite what I said above about Morello's drumming sometimes not fitting in with Burton, Joe swaps some very cogent fours and eights with the vibes. And Gene Cherico provides a sturdy base for the music. In fact ballads like Over the Rainbow and So Many Things are virtually duets between the bass and vibes.
A year before New Vibe Man in Town was recorded, Gary Burton joined guitarist Hank Garland for Jazz Winds from a New Direction, which is added as the last six tracks on this CD. Hank Garland was best known as a studio musician on country music sessions, but he was equally adept as a jazz player. Sadly, Garland's career was curtailed by a motoring accident in 1961. However, his agility equals Gary Burton's perfectly on these six tracks. Note, for instance, the way that the two men weave around each other in All the Things You Are and match one another's playing in the up-tempo Move. Joe Morello is again the drummer and he thrusts the music along energetically. He works well with bassist Joe Benjamin, his former colleague in the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Benjamin states the melody in Always, followed by an eloquent solo from Hank Garland. Gary Burton is absent from this track but he makes a fine impression in the following Riot-Chorus with a solo that unites sprightliness with swing.