Rolling Stone (1/4/69, pp.28-9) - "...It works beautifully; and is as perfectly realized a composition/performance of new jazz as we are ever likely to receive....a wildly impassioned meeting of instrumental voices, barely able to contain their grief, their sorrow..."
Personnel: Gary Burton (vibraphone); Carla Bley (conductor, piano, organ); Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone); Gato Barbieri (tenor saxophone); Howard Johnson (baritone saxophone, tuba); Mike Mantler (trumpet); Jimmy Knepper (trombone, bass trombone); Larry Coryell (guitar); Steve Swallow (bass); Lonesome Dragin (drums).
Recorded at RCA's Studio B, New York, New York in 1967 & 1968. Includes liner notes by Carla Bley.
This striking work was composed by Carla Bley, who refers to it as "A Dark Opera Without Words." FUNERAL is, in fact, a musical portrait of--and inquiry into--the emotions that surround death. The echoes of related attitudes and traditions permeate the music, which is at times celebratory and, at other times, funereal and mournful. Burton's regular quartet is augmented here--with five stellar horn players and Bley herself on piano and organ.
The musical motifs stretch from American jazz to European cabaret and Chinese processionals. Against it all, Burton's vibes are the ebullient traveler--dazzled and dazzling as each new scene unfolds. As powerful and compelling as FUNERAL is, it is unfortunate that Burton never again pursued such a large project. The album instead points towards the Carla Bley recordings that would begin appearing in the early '70s, beginning with ESCALATOR OVER THE HILL.