The disc opens with the lively Chick Corea composition “Sea Journey.” At once I could see this was a Burton led ensemble, with four mallet vibes blazing away, but there is plenty of room for the other players. Metheny’s solo, as on the other tracks is delicious.
Next comes “Olhos de Gato,” one of two tunes written by Carly Bley, who composed many of the songs recorded by Burton’s groups when Metheny was the guitarist. Next is Steve Swallow’s “Falling Grace,” a treat every time it is recorded. Metheny’s solo here is one of his usual masterpieces in controlled fury.
Dreamy without being sleepy, both Burton and Metheny give inspired solos on the next tune, a Keith Jarrett piece entitled “Coral.” Then we have Burton’s tribute to Hank Garland, “Walter L.” This is one of the most rockin’ bluesy songs in the collection, Metheny shredding like mad.
Three Pat Metheny compositions find a place on Quartet Live. One is the ballad “B & G”. Burton’s solo on this one demonstrates where pupils like Metheny got their sense of timely improvisation. This is a song from Metheny’s early days, and his own solo impressed me. At one point he is playing very fast notes, but in the midst of the slow tempo song it sounds right. Fine backing from Swallow, Sanchez, and Burton make a big difference here.
“B & G” is followed by “Missouri Uncompromised,” a bopping number that features a fine solo from Antonio Sanchez. Hearing it made it even more jealous for the people at Yoshi’s that got to see it live. Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine (Little African Flower)” comes right after this, and it shows these musicians can make a classic sound modern without losing the flavor of the original.
“Hullo, Bolins” is next. On Pat Metheny’s website, this song is described as “a catchy jazz waltz that suggests what Chopin might have sounded like if he was reborn today as a jazz musician.” I don’t think I could say it any better. This is followed by the other Carla Bley composition on Quartet Live, “Syndrome.” This was one of the first songs I heard on a Gary Burton recording, and I really like the treatment it is given here.
Quartet Live closes with one of my favorite Pat Metheny songs, “Question and Answer.” Clocking in at just over thirteen minutes, not a single moment is wasted. We are treated another nice solo by Sanchez. Here is the only tune with Metheny soloing on the guitar synth, which might throw a few listeners, but is it does work. He moves deftly from this to a regular guitar riff until the sounds dissolve into the applause of the enthusiastic crowd.
This recording is a reunion of three of members of the original Gary Burton Quartet and the songs have all been captured before. But Quartet Live is fresh and new, the production so clean that it sounds like the band is playing in your living room. Get this and hear four great musicians who play as if jazz was invented for them.