Jazzmen are so unpredictable. Writing on the sleeve of his 1988 Times Like These album. Burton said ‘I still don’t feel that I’m going to work with guitarists anytime soon’. Yet within 12 months or so, he has taken up with his old sideman Pat Metheny after a break of 12 years.
Buoyant and Latinate, this set contrasts significantly with earlier Burton/Metheny liaisons. Burton, reticent as ever about his writing abilities, has employed five composers across 11 tracks (including the excellent Vince Mendoza), but there is no lack of cohesion. Everything is beautifully executed, and Burton and Metheny take a host of solos.
The latter’s recent group albums have demonstrated a wholesale return to extended soloing, and it can only be a matter of time before Metheny follows fellow fusioneers Benson, Ritenour and Carlton and cuts a collection of smoking standards. He might even go so far as to retire the charmless guitar synth heard on Panama. Standards would also be eminently preferable to the three pallid Metheny charts here.
The rhythm section cruise like a finely tuned engine. It’s especially interesting to hear Will Lee in such an elegant setting, and likewise Mitch Forman, who has rarely been heard to play with such grace. His string synth appears to supply the superb pizzicato effect at the close of Autumn‘s theme.
Minor reservations aside, this is a Burton that’s well worth going for.
Autumn; Reunion; Origin; Will You Say You Will; House On The Hill; Panama; Chairs And Children; Wasn’t Always Easy; The Chief; Tempos Felice (Happy Times); Quick And Running (58.35)
Burton (vib/mar); Pat Metheny (g/elg/g syn); Mitchell Forman (p/kyb); Will Lee (elb); Peter Erskine (d/pc). NYC, May 6-10, 1989.