Fans (like me) of early period Gary Burton should check this set out. These two albums (+) are finally making their appearance on CD, and help fill in some early gaps in Burton's discography. The sound has been digitally remastered and sounds fairly crisp without any compression. There's a fourteen page booklet with a recent essay on Burton and the music, plus the original album liner notes for "Who Is...", and "Subtle Swing", and a few b&w photographs (including a great shot of a very short haired Burton) that feature the major musicians in each band. All in all a well done package.
The first seven tracks comprise the album "Who Is Gary Burton", recorded in N.Y. in 1962. Personnel on these sides are Burton, Phil Woods-alto sax, Clark Terry-trumpet, Tommy Flanagan-piano, Chris Swansen-trombone, John Neves-bass, and (from Brubeck's group) Joe Morello-drums. Burton--still unknown at this time--asked Terry if he would play on the album, by telling him that Flanagan was already signed up. Clark said yes, so Burton then calls Flanagan about playing on the date, and tells him that Terry is also playing. In order to get the players he wanted, Burton had to resort to trickery. But it worked out well, with Woods, Neves, and Swansen (especially) fitting in well. Tunes like "Fly Time", "Conception", and "My Funny Valentine" are good examples of how good this band was for the period.
Tracks 8-12 are from the 1961 album under Morello's name, "It's About Time". Personnel include Burton, Morello, Woods, John Bunch-piano, Gene Cherico-bass. This is another album that hasn't been available on CD until now. This album has it's moments ("Summertime") but it's typical early 60's "safe" jazz. Nonetheless it's another piece of the puzzle in Burton's on-going growth as a musician and worth having for fans of Burton's early sound.
The final tracks are from 1960, from the album "Subtle Swing". This is another album of Burton and Garland's, after "Jazz Winds From A New Direction". This is a better representation of Burton's early playing style. Personnel are Burton, the great Hank Garland-guitar, William Pursell-piano, Bob Moore-bass, and Murray Harman-drums. This set is sometimes reminiscent of Burton's/Garland's album "Jazz Winds...", with both Burton and Garland meshing well. Garland was a good jazz player, as heard by both his phrasing and single note runs. Check out Garland's set of early guitar stuff--it's great. Good examples are "Not For Me", "What Am I To Do?", and (Burton's) "Rainy Afternoon". This is another album that hasn't been on CD, so it's nice to have this set too.
Hopefully other albums from Burton's earlier period will be reissued on CD--"Duster", "Something's Coming", "Three In Jazz" (with one of my favorite trumpet players Jack Sheldon), "The Time Machine", and a couple of others all deserve to be reissued. I've been a fan of Burton's music since the vinyl days of "Lofty Fake Anagram", "A Genuine Tong Funeral", and the live set from Carnegie Hall. His sound during this period had a slight morphing of a country/jazz/rock feel to it--which faded as he matured as a player and went on to record some fine music for the ECM label. And while I like much of his later music, I still have a soft-spot for his earlier, more organic sounding albums. If you want to hear where Burton's sound came from, "Who Is..."/"Subtle Swing", along with the other albums I mentioned will show you all you need to hear.