When you are No. 1 there is no need to try harder. Gary Burton, the premier jazz vibraharpist, glides through his music with the ease and assurance of one who knows he has no competition.
Burton's concert, Saturday night at Carter Barron, was a graceful and lyrical musical display whose power came from within rather than without. There were no dramatic flourishes, blasting volume levels or flashy, pyrotechnical outbursts. The music simply unfolded with an inner sense of creative power and dexterity that was overwhelming, in an understated way.
The key to this understatement was in the structure of Burton's musical interpretation. Melodies, harmonies and rhythms floated above constantly evolving improvisational layers, with theme lines and solos taking on an impressionistic blur. Within this blur were subtle interplays between the instruments and soft tonal shadings that commanded an almost effortless attention.
On Chick Corea's "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly," Burton and bassist Steve Swallow breezed along, threading their way in and around the melody line. Burton's solo rendition of Oscar Levant's "Blame It on My Youth" was particularly impressive, with light, bittersweet phrases that seemed to evaporate in the night air.
Gary Burton hardly needs to blow his own horn. He lets his vibraharp do it for him.