An album of solo vibes ? Well, solo piano albums are as common as rain showers, and the vibes aren't that far from the piano. Rather than being a single-line melodist like a saxophonist or a trumpeter, a vibes player can play harmony and melody simultaneously, like a pianist. Yet even with that exception aside, many may consider the sound of the vibes to be too bell-like, and anticipate that an all-vibes album would be like listening to church chimes for an hour.
Think again. Gary Burton's legendary Alone at Last is back in print (at last). Even after twenty-eight years it is a splendid excursion into the beautiful sound of the vibes, showing that they can indeed carry a solo performance - at least in the hands of so capable an improviser as Burton. Burton is always melodic, always good-humored, and forever melodically inventive, making this program utterly delightful.
The crowd explodes at the end of the first number, "Moonchild/In Your Quiet Place," and it is the sound of delighted surprise: it works! He's pulling it off! I had the same reaction hearing this disc so many years later, and the rest of the program is no letdown. Burton explores the tremendous possibilities of the vibes and occasionally dips into piano, electric piano, and organ - without displacing the instrument that is the star of the show.
Of necessity, this disc isn't full of rhythm pieces: many are meditative ruminations, but all are melodically fetching. Anyone who loves the vibes in the hands of Burton in his work with Chick Corea or on his own - and anyone who loves Hamp, or Bags, or Hutch - will love this pretty disc. Recommended.
Track listing: Moonchild/In Your Quiet Place / Green Mountains/Arise, Her Eyes / The Sunset Bell / Hand Bags and Glad Rags / Hullo, Bolinas / General Mojo's Well Laid Plan / Chega de Saudade (No More Blues).
Gary Burton, vibes, piano, electric piano, organ.