Pat Metheny and Gary Burton

September 1, 2009

CELEBRATED JAZZ VIBRAPHONIST GARY Burton has always had great guitarists in his bands, beginning in 1967 with Larry Coryell. Burton first crossed paths with Pat Metheny at the Wichita Jazz Festival in 1973, when the 18-year-old sat in on “Walter L,” and the following year he asked the precocious guitarist to join the Gary Burton Quintet. “Pat asked my advice that day in Wichita, and I suggested he move somewhere that had a jazz scene,” explains Burton. “A few months later he arrived in Boston, we got to know each other, played together occasionally, and eventually I knew that I wanted to add him to my band.”

“Gary’s Quartet was my favorite band in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” enthuses Metheny. “If I had never done anything else other than to be in that band, my major dream as a musician would have been fulfilled. For me, it was like getting to join the Beatles. There are so many musical things that came from playing night after night, not only from Gary, but also [bassist] Steve Swallow, [guitarist] Mick Goodrick, and [percussionist] Bob Moses who were all in the band. I was like a sponge soaking up the millions of things they offered through their amazing improvisational abilities.”

Although Burton recognized Metheny’s potential from the beginning, the young guitarist still surprised him. “Not only was he a fast learner musically, he watched everything that was going on, and I could tell he was destined to lead his own band sooner rather than later,” says Burton. “Over those few years, I watched him go from a promising student to a polished original. And Pat was always upbeat, always excited about getting to the gig each day. He was never cynical or jaded, and he is still like that today.”

Metheny suggested that he, Burton, and Swallow reunite for a performance at the 2005 Montreal Jazz Festival, with Antonio Sanchez substituting for original drummer Roy Haynes. The gig went so well that the group toured Japan, the U.S., and Europe between 2006 and 2008. “After the first get-together in Montreal, we all realized it was really feeling fresh, and we wanted to keep going,” says Burton. “If we had just re-visited the old material with no differences, we wouldn’t have bothered with three tours and a record.” That record, Quartet Live [Concord Jazz], features 11 spectacular performances recorded in June 2007 at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, California, and hip packaging designed by pop art painter Peter Max.

Burton and Metheny both cite the personal and musical evolution they have undergone throughout the past three decades as the primary reason playing together now is as fresh and exciting as it was back in the day, but at least one thing hasn’t changed. “It is funny to say this after all these years, knowing them both personally as well as I do now, but Gary and Steve are still heroes of mine,” says Metheny. “They represent the last generation in jazz where coming up with an original voice was a requirement and not just a good idea. They both invented entirely new languages that have withstood the most critical musical scrutiny, and there are not too many players around that you can say that about.”

Steve Morse and 6,346 Guitarists Shatter Guinness World Record

Deep Purple’s Steve Morse led more than 6,000 guitarists through “Smoke on the Water” and “Hey Joe” on May Day 2009, helping set the Guinness World Record for “Largest Guitar Ensemble.” The action took place on the historic town square in Wroclaw, Poland (a.k.a. “Guitar City”), as part of the seventh annual Thanks Jimi Festival, organized by virtuoso Polish guitarist Leszek Cichonski. The festivities were also Webcast, and additional events took place in Sweden, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the U.S. “We hope that the Thanks Jimi Festival will continue to spread around the globe, and that May 1st will eventually be established as ‘World Guitar Day,’” declared Cichonski. —Barry Cleveland


Most Beat-to-Death Covers by Cover Bands

When MusicPlayer Network Hall of Fame member yZe launched this poll, it didn’t generate a ton of lists. Instead, a discussion on running a successful cover band, catering to the crowd, and other career-oriented subjects followed. However, here are some of yZe’s picks that kicked off the whole dialogue:

“All Along the Watchtower” Jimi Hendrix
“All Right Now” Free
“Born to Be Wild” Steppenwolf
“Brown Eyed Girl” Van Morrison
“Cocaine” Eric Clapton
“Freebird” Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Honky Tonk Woman” Rolling Stones
“Johnny B. Goode” Chuck Berry
“Play That Funky Music” Wild Cherry
“Smooth” Santana
“Takin’ Care of Business” Bachman-Turner Overdrive

So what’s on your mind? Join the fun at the Guitar Player Forums,

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