May 16, 2015

Gary Burton's Duster May Be The First Jazz Rock Album: Is it Any Good?

Many believe Duster is the beginning of jazz rock, it certainly fuses rock and jazz styles, but I must confess, I was disappointed at first listen about 10 years ago.

 It doesn't sound all that groundbreaking to me, it actually sounds dated a bit to my ears, Just a quartet session with Burton on Vibes, Larry Coryell on Guitar, Roy Haynes on Drums, and Steve Swallow on Bass.

 Though an impeccably played chamber jazz of sorts, with Coryell playing in a rock style, but he sure isn't riffing it up like on many of his own early 70's albums; Barefoot Boy for instance. However the track included below "Ballet" has some tasty guitar from Coryell.

 Burton's Vibes are traditional and safe in the jazz zone, I don't feel much of a rock vibe here at all. I was expecting this otherworldly masterpiece of fusion, But in the end, it was just oh hum. I do find it hard not to like "General Mojo's Well Laid Plan" with a lilting lite rock fusion.

The ground breaking fusion music wouldn't happen until Miles Davis Got the electric instrument bug, and Tony Williams, Larry Young, and John McLaughlin formed Lifetime at about the same time, those 3 were all a part of some of the early Davis experiments.

So, was Duster really the first jazz rock album? well, maybe technically it could be considered that, but it doesn't feel like it to me. I think the coming together of jazz and rock was a spontaneous happening, younger rock and jazz musicians like these on Duster, intermingling their styles together.

I still happen to think those Davis albums like Bitches Brew and before that In a Silent Way feel more like what I was hoping for. Tony Williams' Lifetime band is what I think of, they aren't the first jazz rock albums proper, but which sounds better?

Over the years my stance on Duster has mellowed a bit, realizing that I was putting the album and the music in a box that made it not live up the expectations I had for it. In fact, it is a fine chamber jazz lite rock fusion,  mellower than you might expect, but it really is a lovely album.

Photo credit: Gary Burton Duster CD, used with permission via .

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