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 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 to 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 wide variety of jazz musicians, including Carla Bley, Hank Garland, 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, Ralph Towner, Peter Erskine, Stephane Grappelli and tango legend Ástor Piazzolla.
From 2004 to 2008 Burton hosted a weekly jazz radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. From September 2006 to 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.
On Wednesday, February 23, Mack Avenue Records announced that they signed Burton. He plans to release his next project, entitled "Common Ground" featuring The New Gary Burton Quartet (featuring Julian Lage, Scott Colley, and Antonio Sanchez) on June 7.
Read more about this topic: Gary Burton
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