Ron "Ran" Waite Wing

In Concert: Gary Burton and New Generation

In Concert: Gary Burton and New Generation
by Ran

  Gary Burton is a legend in the jazz field.  He is one of the best known jazz vibraphonists in the world.  He is a five-time Grammy winner, former educator and administrator at the Berklee College of Music and has a keen eye for new talent.

  I caught this performance in Philadelphia , on June 5, 2005 at Zanzibar Blue, a high-class jazz bar in the basement of the Bellevue Hotel.  This club has great ambiance, but a stage the size of a postage stamp.

  This evening, 62 year-old Burton brought along his newest band: Next Generation.  The band is 17 year-old Julian Lage on guitar, Vadim Neselovsky (26 yo) on piano, Luques Curtis (21 yo) on bass, and James E. Williams (21 yo) on drums.  I was surprised at how young they were—they are indeed the next generation of jazz masters.  This instrumental show was smokin'.  Each musician was given an opportunity to shine on their respective instruments—and these guys can really play!  Despite their youth, their talents are incredible.  Not only do they play like pros, but they wrote several of the pieces that were part of this performance (such as "Prelude for Vibes" and "'Ques Sez") which are also on this band's new CD.

  Jazz, for some is an acquired taste, but for others, like myself, it is a world of rhythm with a language that speaks volumes.  Gary Burton is the creator and leader of the band, but Next Generation is definitely an ensemble.  Yes, Gary Burton is in front, and he is renowned for inventing and playing the  vibraphone with four mallets, but he didn't hog the stage.  It was most entertaining and refreshing that Gary Burton played as an adjunct to the band.  He would weave back and forth within the pieces, step away from his instrument, and then effortlessly rejoin the other musicians.  The vibraphone is an amazing electrophonic percussion instrument resembling a xylophone but with metal keys. Electrically driven discs spin within resonating tubes under each key to add a quivering effect that can be controlled in length with a foot pedal.  It generally has a three octave range.  Watching Gary Burton play with two mallets in each hand was amazing, and it sounded so good!

  Jazz artists don't stand on stage and tell jokes, or try to make you cry—they express their emotions through the music.  All of the New Generation members had serious expressions on their faces, and there weren't many words spoken, except by Gary Burton who rarely said more than "thank you" after each song.  This was a relaxing evening, it was hotter than heck in the room, but the jazz was very cool.  You can find this OUT artist on the web at

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