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Photo by Tom Beetz

Background information
Born: January 23, 1943 (1943-01-23) (age 68) Anderson, Indiana United States
Genres: Jazz, Jazz Fusion
Occupations: Musician, Compose Educator
Instruments: Vibraphone, Marimba
Years active. since 1960
Labels ECM, Concord Records
Associated acts
Stan Getz
Chick Corea
Pat Metheny
Notable instruments : Musser M-48 Vibraphone

Gary Burton (born January 23, 1943, Anderson, Indiana) is an American jazz vibraphonist.

A true original on the vibraphone, Burton developed a pianistic style of four-mallet technique as an alternative to the usual two-mallets. This approach caused Burton to be heralded as an innovator and his sound and technique are widely imitated. He is also known for pioneering fusion jazz and popularizing the duet format in jazz, as well as being a major figure in jazz education.


Beginning music at six years old, Burton for the most part taught himself to play marimba and vibraphone. He also began studying piano at age sixteen as he finished high school in Princeton, Indiana (56-60). Burton has cited jazz pianist Bill Evans as a main inspiration for his approach toward the vibraphone.

Burton attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1960-61. He studied with Herb Pomeroy and soon befriended the composer and arranger Michael Gibbs. 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 finally as Executive Vice President during his last decade at the college.

Early in his career, at the behest of noted Nashville saxophonist Boots Randolph, Burton moved to Nashville and recorded with several notable Nashville musicians including guitarist Hank Garland, pianist Floyd Cramer and guitarist Chet Atkins.

After touring both the U.S. and Japan with pianist George Shearing in 1963, Burton went on to play with saxophonist Stan Getz from 1964-1966. It was during this time with the Stan Getz Quartet that Burton appeared with the band in a feature film, "Get Yourself a College Girl", playing "Girl From Ipanema" with Astrud Gilberto. In 1967 he formed the Gary Burton Quartet along with guitarist Larry Coryell, drummer Roy Haynes, and bassist Steve Swallow. Predating the jazz-rock fusion craze of the 1970s, the group's first record, Duster, combined jazz, country and rock and roll elements. However, some of Burton's previous albums (notably Tennessee Firebird and Time Machine, both from 1966) had already shown his inclination toward such experimentation with different genres of popular music. After Coryell left the quartet in the late-1960s, Burton hired a number of well-regarded guitarists: Jerry Hahn, David Pritchard, Mick Goodrick, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and most recently Julian Lage, who played guitar in Burton's group Next Generation.

Burton was named Down Beat magazine's 'Jazzman of the Year' in 1968 (the youngest ever to receive the title) and won his first Grammy award in 1972, Burton began a now 38 year-long collaboration with pianist Chick Corea, recognized for popularizing the format of jazz duet performance. Their half dozen recordings won the pair Grammy awards in years 1979, 1981, 1997, 1999, and most recently in 2009, for The New Crystal Silence.

Burton has played with a variety of jazz musicians, including Carla Bley, Gato Barbieri, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Steve Lacy, Pat Metheny, Makoto Ozone, Adam Nussbaum, Tiger Okoshi, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Tommy Smith, Eberhard Weber, Stephane Grappelli and tango legend Ástor Piazzolla.

From 2004-2008 Burton hosted a weekly jazz radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. From September 2006 - April 2008, Burton toured worldwide with Chick Corea celebrating 35 years of working together. Most recently Burton has toured and recorded with Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow, and Antonio Sanchez (The Gary Burton Quartet Revisited), reprising music from the Burton's 1970s group.

Burton's available recordings, as of 2010, are mainly those from Atlantic Records, ECM Records, GRP Records and the Concord Jazz label, his current record company.

Private life

Following an early marriage in his 20's, Burton married for a second time in 1975 to Catherine Goldwyn, granddaughter of film producer Samuel Goldwyn (1879–1974). Together for nearly a decade, the couple had two children, a daughter Stephanie (born 1978), and a son, Sam, (born 1980). In 1985, Burton publicly declared himself as a gay man, making him one of only a few openly gay jazz musicians. His longtime partner is Jonathan Chong.

Selected discography

After the Riot at Newport (1960)
New Vibe Man in Town (RCA, 1961)
Who Is Gary Burton? (RCA, 1962)
Bob Brookmeyer and Friends (1962)
3 in Jazz (RCA, 1963)
Something's Coming (RCA, 1963)
The Groovy Sound of Music (RCA, 1964)
The Time Machine (RCA, 1966)
Tennessee Firebird (RCA, 1966)
Duster (RCA, 1967)
Lofty Fake Anagram (RCA, 1967)
A Genuine Tong Funeral (RCA, 1968) with compositions by Carla Bley
Gary Burton Quartet in Concert Live (RCA, 1968)
Country Roads and Other Places (RCA, 1968)
Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett (Atlantic, 1969) with Sam Brown session-member
Throb (Atlantic, 1969)
Good Vibes (Atlantic, 1970)
Paris Encounter (Atlantic, 1970) with Stephane Grappelli
Live in Tokyo (Atlantic, 1971)
Alone at Last (Atlantic, 1971)
Crystal Silence (ECM, 1972) with Chick Corea
The New Quartet (ECM, 1973)
Seven Songs For Quartet And Chamber Orchestra (ECM, 1974) featuring music by Mike Gibbs
Hotel Hello (ECM, 1974) with Steve Swallow
Matchbook (ECM, 1974) with Ralph Towner
Ring (ECM, 1974) with Eberhard Weber
Dreams So Real (1975) featuring music by Carla Bley (ECM)
Passengers (ECM, 1976) with Eberhard Weber
Times Square (ECM, 1978)
Duet (ECM, 1979) with Chick Corea
Easy as pie (ECM, 1980)
In Concert, Zurich, October 28, 1979 with Chick Corea (ECM, 1980)
Picture This (ECM, 1982)
Real life hits (ECM, 1984)
Gary Burton and the Berklee All-Stars (JVC, 1985)
Whiz kids (ECM, 1986)
Slide Show (ECM, 1986) with Ralph Towner
Times Like These (GRP, 1988)
The New Tango (1988) with Ástor Piazzolla
Reunion (GRP, 1989) with Pat Metheny, Will Lee, Peter Erskine, Mitchel Forman
Right Time, Right Place (GNP Crescendo, 1990)
Cool Nights (GRP, 1991)
Six Pack (GRP, 1992)
It's Another Day (GRP, 1993)
Face to Face (GRP, 1994)
Live in Cannes (Jazz World, 1996)
Ástor Piazzolla Reunion: A Tango Excursion (Concord Jazz, 1996)
Departure (Concord Jazz, 1997)
Native Sense with Chick Corea (1997)
Like Minds with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland (1998)
Alone At Last (solo album/CD) Live- cuts 1-3 @ Montreaux Jazz Festival 1971-, Studio- cuts 4-7. (32jazz, 1999)
Libertango: The Music of Ástor Piazzolla (Concord Jazz, 2000)
For Hamp, Red, Bags, and Cal (Concord Jazz, 2001)
Virtuosi (Concord, 2002)
Music of Duke Ellington (LRC Ltd, 2003)
Generations (Concord Jazz, 2004)
Simple Complex 2004 with pianist Jon Weber
Next Generation (Concord, 2005)
Live in Montreux 2002 (Eagle Eye, 2006)
L'Hymne a l'Amour (2007) with Richard Galliano
"The New Crystal Silence" (Concord Jazz 2008) with Chick Corea
"Quartet Live" (Concord Jazz 2009) with Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow, Antonio Sanchez


Over the years, Gary Burton has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards and he has won 6:

Year Award Album/song
1972 Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist Alone at Last
1979 Best jazz instrumental performance, group Duet (with Chick Corea)
1982 Best jazz instrumental performance, group In Concert, Zürich, October 28, 1979 (with Chick Corea)
1998 Best instrumental solo "Rhumbata", Native Sense (with Chick Corea)
2000 Best jazz instrumental performance Like Minds (with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes and Dave Holland)
2009 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album, Individual or Group|Best jazz instrumental performance

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