Fifty years old this recording may be, but there is no indication of the compositions sounding dated in any way.

ECM 1030 / 450 5324 (LP)

Gary Burton (vibraphone); Mick Goodrick (guitar); Abraham Laboriel (bass); Harry Blazer (drums)

Recorded March 5 & 6, 1973

Another chapter in ECM’s Luminescence vinyl reissue series, this may well have been Gary Burton’s New Quartet in 1973 when it was recorded but how does it stand up fifty years later? The answer is exceptionally well, and this record has not been far from my turntable since it arrived for review.

The are multiple factors involved here that make the album such a resounding success from the personal chemistry from within the band and the choice of compositions.

Nothing predictable is chosen by Burton, but instead he has been in the enviable position of having his pick of a selection of tunes form some of the preeminent jazz composers of the day.

It is also nice to note that half of the pieces on the album are written by British composers with two apiece by Mike Gibbs and Gordon Beck. Along with compositions by Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Carla Bley one immediately realises that there is not a bargain basement tune likely to be heard.

Of the Quartet, the band was a new line up for Burton having moved from New York, where he had been playing with the leading players on the scene, to Boston where he was to rake up residence at Berklee College of Music. Not knowing any of the local musicians, Burton wasted no time in finding some of the best musicians Boston had to offer.

This he did in a timely manner as Manfred Eicher was about to come knocking on his door, and after the success of the Burton/Corea duet album Crystal Silence, Eicher was keen to record the vibes maestro with his own band.

At the time Burton could have chosen to call up some his New York friends to make the date but instead made the decision to stick with his Boston band with who he had built a solid rapport. A choice that proved to be a sound one, and as the band was to be short lived it is a bonus to have their work captured here for posterity.

Guitarist Mick Goodrick’s stature as one of the finest guitarists of his generation is still woefully under appreciated. His playing is a constant source of surprise and delight whether digging into a solo or providing accompaniment.

He refuses to be pigeon-holed and whether he is comping or taking a solo his good taste in everything he plays prevails.

His playing on Carla Bley’s ‘Olhos de Gato’ is flawless with his accompaniment to Burton’s lead on vibes a delight, and his solo follows in a similar vein in being understated and cutting to the chase.

This trait is also evident in his wonderful playing on Jarrett’s ‘Coral’, in which the vibes delicately spell out the melody supported by Goodrick’s restrained commentary with Laboriel’s presence on bass and the brushwork of Blazer contributing exactly what is required to bring out the best in the composition.

Less is more seems to be a feature of an album that seems to revel in contradictions. The music is packed with detail, and at times with a latent power that is felt as much as heard on ‘Tying Up Loose Ends’, yet a spaciousness is present in the music and there is nothing that ever feels rushed.

Even ‘Mallet Man’ by Gordon Beck with its brisk tempo and driving bass line and buoyant drumming refuses to spill over into any hint of excess. Even at this tempo with mallets flying over the vibraphone, Burton is a model of the lyrical soloist with something to say. Not to be outdone, Goodrick also gets in a cracking outing.

Eight tracks in just over 46 minutes, and concluding with Mike Gibbs’s excellent ‘Nonsequence’ in which the quartet clearly revel in the composer’s twisting melody line forceful rhythmic presence from Laboriel and Blazer, the music is a joy.

Fifty years old this recording may be, but there is no indication of the compositions sounding dated in any way.