Guitar and Vibes

I’ve been away on business for a couple weeks, leaving the blog sadly neglected. Stay tuned though. Posts are impending, including a new edition of Weekend Test Drive, new music reviews, and hopefully the commencement of an amplifier mod project. In the mean time, check out this great clip from across the pond, featuring vibraphone virtuoso Gary Burton and guitar wunder-kid (technically now wunder-adult) Julian Lage.

I’ve always been impressed by great jazz vibraphonists. It’s not necessarily an instrument that screams “improvisational agility”; Burton apparently never got the memo. He’s been tearing it up for more than five decades now. Moreover, he’s usually found in the company of amazing guitarists. Hank Garland, Chet Atkins, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, John Scofield, and Kurt Rosenwinkel (among others) have all shared stage and studio with Burton. Julian Lage is the latest addition to the roster, having first recorded with Gary at age 16(!).

Among contemporary jazz guitarists, Lage stands out for his astounding virtuosity and ability to seamlessly blend genres. The latter trait is most evident on his two solo albums, Sounding Point and Gladwell, which incorporate strains of Americana, classical, and Latin rhythms. Fans of more straight-ahead jazz should check out his work with the Gary Burton quartet; the latest album, Guided Tour, provides ample space for Julian to showcase his comping and solo chops. I’m also a big fan of Lage’s tone, which emphasizes the acoustic qualities of his instrument (usually a Linda Manzer archtop) — a stark contrast to the darker, more subdued sounds of many modern jazz guitarists.

If you’re digging the guitar/vibes sound, I also heartily recommend the following:

“Move! The Guitar Artistry of Hank Garland” by Hand Garland

Garland, an early Nashville session hero, unfortunately departed the scene long before his time; this album documents most of the jazz recordings he left behind. Amazing stuff though, with Burton playing vibes on many of the standout tracks.


“The Savoy Sessions” by the Red Norvo Trio

Recorded in 1950/1951, these trio sessions — featuring Tal Farlow on guitar and Charles Mingus on bass — were well ahead of their time. The recording quality is a bit rough on a few tracks, but definitely worth the price of admission.

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