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  • Sunday, January 22, 2006


    Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone Concert

    Vibe man Gary Burton and pianist Makoto Ozone gave a concert on January 21, 2006 in Fort Lauderdale. Burton and Ozone did a Q and A session with the audience for about an hour before the show started. My wife and I, in our early 40s, were among the youngest people in the sold-out art museum auditorium audience. Most of the audience was Gary Burton's age or older, and we figured out from some comments Burton made about how old he was in a certain year when he did some intense musical sessions with some jazz legend or other, that he is 62. Burton and Ozone seemed like relatively normal, down-to-earth guys.

    Burton said he has been living in Fort Lauderdale full-time for about a year and a half. He announced an upcoming project with Pat Metheny, and a DVD Video from one of his concerts that will be released in March or April 2006. He explained the vibraphone was invented in 1930 and that, as a musical instrument, it is in its adolescence. He said he was lucky because when he came up as a young musician, there were not many jazz vibraphone players other than Lionel Hampton. But now there is a crop of younger vibes players coming up who are excellent. He declined to say which one of them was his favorite. Burton talked a lot about his work with and admiration for Astor Piazzolla, the Brazilian king of Tango. He mentioned his recent work with acclaimed guitar prodigy Julian Lage whom Burton said he discovered playing in a student band during a Grammy broadcast.

    Ozone said his jazz playing was inspired by his initial desire to emulate Oscar Peterson, whom he saw in Osaka, Japan, at a concert he attended accidentally, at the age of 19. He said he initially rebuffed efforts by his music teachers to get him to stop copying Peterson. He told them it didn't matter as he was never going to make any CDs. He was not at all ashamed to say Chick Corea later heavily influenced his jazz style. He talked about his subsequent efforts to find his own unique style, much of the success of which he attributed to Gary Burton's suggestion that he get more into composing.

    Burton's dexterity with four sticks and two hands is astonishing. He plays with blinding speed at times, and did not make one mistake that my untrained ear could discern. His sound is clean and strong and precise. His arrangements of standards, modern jazz, tangos, and his own and Ozone's compositions, combined with mastery of his instrument, command of the entire field of jazz and beyond, and his natural flair for making music, make him a not only a musical genius, but a towering figure of legendary proportions in the music world.

    Ozone is, of course, a technically brilliant player. Burton has said Ozone is one of the best musicians he has ever worked with, and that is a huge compliment from a major, experienced player like Burton who has played with some of the giants of jazz such as Stan Getz. And Ozone plays with a surprisingly much higher level of soulfulness, enthusiasm, and pure grooving than might be expected from a kid who grew up in Japan.

    Burton and Ozone played a good mix of standards, original compositions, and pieces by other jazz composers. The highlight of the first set was their rendition of Chick Corea's Brazilia, which is the fifth movement of Corea's Lyric Suite for Sextet. Both Burton and Ozone drew enthusiastic applause with every one of their inventive improvisational solos. But the comping each did for the other was just as awe-inspiring.

    The effect their performance had on me was one of being transfixed, more on an intellectual level than emotional, as the huge number of crisp, flawlessly-executed notes they play within a single measure of music, and relentlessly measure after measure, seems beyond the immediate comprehension of someone who is not a trained music theorist. For me, by the time my emotional response had time to catch up to what I had just heard, they had already progressed to a musical statement of equal or greater intensity. Two days after the concert, I feel as if I am still emotionally processing the music I heard at the concert. To me, theirs is the kind of music that rewards many repeated listenings, as there is so much "musical information" in it, it is difficult for me to even come close to understanding it all from one listening session, which is one reason I enjoy their recordings so much.

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