Burton attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1960–61 and the Stan Kenton Clinic at Indiana University in 1960. He studied with Herb Pomeroy and soon befriended 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 executive vice president, during his last decade at the college. In 1989, Burton received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee.
Early in his career, at the behest of Nashville saxophonist Boots Randolph, Burton moved to Nashville, Tennessee and recorded with several musicians from the area, including guitarist Hank Garland, pianist Floyd Cramer and guitarist Chet Atkins.
Burton toured the U.S. and Japan with pianist George Shearing. Shearing asked Burton to write a whole album of compositions for him which were released as Out of the Woods in 1965. Burton described the album in his autobiography, Learning to Listen, as his “most ambitious effort at composing and arranging”. Burton played with saxophonist Stan Getz from 1964 to 1966. It was during this time that he appeared with the band in the movie Get Yourself a College Girl, playing “Girl from Ipanema” with Astrud Gilberto. In 1967, he formed the Gary Burton Quartet with guitarist Larry Coryell, drummer Roy Haynes, and bassist Steve Swallow. Predating the jazz-rock fusion craze of the 1970s, the group’s first album, Duster, combined jazz, country, and rock. However, some of Burton’s previous albums (notably Tennessee Firebird and The Time Machine, both from 1966) had already shown his inclination toward such experimentation. After Coryell left the quartet in the late 1960s, Burton worked with guitarists Jerry Hahn, David Pritchard, Mick Goodrick, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Julian Lage.
Burton was named DownBeat magazine’s Jazzman of the Year in 1968 (the youngest to receive that title) and won his first Grammy Award in 1972. The following year Burton began a forty-year collaboration with pianist Chick Corea, recognized for popularizing the format of jazz duet performance. Their eight albums won Grammy Awards in 1979, 1981, 1997, 1999, 2009, and 2013.
Burton has played with a wide variety of jazz musicians, including Gato Barbieri, Carla Bley, Chick Corea, Peter Erskine, Stan Getz, Hank Garland, Stephane Grappelli, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, B. B. King, Steve Lacy, Pat Metheny, Makoto Ozone, Tiger Okoshi, Astor Piazzolla, Tommy Smith, Ralph Towner, and Eberhard Weber.
Burton is known for his variation of traditional four-mallet grip which has come to be known as “Burton Grip,” and is popular among jazz vibraphonists, as well as some concert marimbists, including Pius Cheung and Evelyn Glennie.
Sit back, relax and enjoy.
As you know, we’ve suspended our ads in order to make Past Daily a better experience for you without all the distractions and pop-ups. Because of that, we’re relying more on your support through Patreon to keep us up and running every day. For as little as $2.00 a month you can make a huge difference as well as be able to download all of our posts for free (news, history, music). You’ll see a banner just below. Click on that and become a subscriber – it’s easy, painless and does a world of good.