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Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton: An Autobiography - Buy now from
In Learning to Listen, Gary Burton shares his fifty years of experiences at the top of the jazz scene. A seven-time GRAMMY® Award winner, Burton made his first recordings at age seventeen, has toured and recorded with a who’s who of famous jazz names, and is one of only a few openly gay musicians in jazz. Burton is a true innovator, both as a performer and an educator. His autobiography is one of the most personal and insightful jazz books ever written.

Read what Gary has to say about writing the book.

What people have to say about LEARNING TO LISTEN:

“Great musicians are no respecters of borders; they cross them at will, and in doing so define their own territory. Gary Burton’s career has spanned that porous borderland between jazz and rock music, between the strictures of academia and the spontaneity of live performance. It has been a fascinating journey through the great plains of music towards the high plateaux of the realized self. Bravo!”


“Gary Burton’s life and works have paralleled the twists and turns of a wild half-century of cultural upheaval and transition from a vantage point that is singularly fascinating and unique. Always one of the most fluent and articulate communicators of complexity and nuance as a musician, in this captivating autobiography, Gary takes us through a lifetime lived on the front lines of a shifting and evolving world with a clarity and focus that is worthy of his narrative skills as one of the greatest jazz soloists of his time.”

—Pat Metheny

“Gary Burton’s life story is the finest autobiography of a musician I’ve read yet. Not only do we get to know Gary Burton, but we are able to realize his deep insight into musicians with whom he has worked, such as Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, and many others.”

—George Wein

“… By turns funny and poignant, graceful and down to earth, …”  Read the full article.

—Miami Herald


The New York Times interview with Gary, “The Jazzman With a Debt to Nashville”

The New York Times interview with Gary: “The Jazzman With a Debt to Nashville”SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. — There’s a moment in “Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton,” an autobiography due out on Sept. 3 from Berklee Press, that depicts the author’s earliest encounter with Miles Davis. It happened at a summer jazz festival in Mr. Burton’s home state, Indiana, and probably could have gone a little better.

The year was 1959. Mr. Burton was 16, a precocious vibraphonist enrolled in the first Stan Kenton Jazz Camp. Davis was playing the festival with his sextet, which had just made the album “Kind of Blue.” “As he paced around on the grass behind the stage,” Mr. Burton writes, “I snapped his photo with my Brownie camera, flashing the bulb in his face, to which he simply replied, sarcastically, ‘Thanks, kid.’ ”

It’s only a passing exchange in the book, but it captures something essential about Mr. Burton.… Read the full article.

—The New York Times


  1. jr mcnalis

    August 27, 2013 (15:40) Reply

    I was in southern California in the 50’s and 60′ exposed to the wonderful latin/afro Cuban/ jazz explosion. I have a variety of LPs with terrific vibes. Has Mr. Burton ever played with René Touzet, Eddie Cano or some of the other latin jazz stars at the time.
    Unfortunately the vibes was not identified on some of my albums and many rumors often led to “Gary Burton”.

  2. Rod Stasick

    August 27, 2013 (19:04) Reply

    Thank you very much for the signed copy of your book.
    I took lessons from you in the early 70’s when I was just
    barely a teenager whenever you would have your “intensives”
    in Dallas at B & S Percussion center. This means a lot to me!

  3. Tim

    September 11, 2013 (12:03) Reply

    Gary – Thanks for taking the “pen to paper” plunge, and attempting to record your amazing life and experiences for us to share. I’m devouring the book as we speak….I’m up to the Getz era. Who knew!

    Anyways, your insights into the business and your beautiful and unique approach to listening/practicing/playing have already been quite inspirational.


  4. Bob

    December 7, 2013 (16:11) Reply

    Gary, have followed your music since the ’70s and seen you many times. This book was a fabulous trip through jazz history, your path, and the times in which we have lived. As a lifelong semi-pro musician I particularly loved the chapter describing musicians in general and your own creative process. So much so that I told my wife of 29 years she needs to read it to understand me even better! Keep making beautiful music, enjoying life, love, and the recognition you so well deserve. Bob

  5. John Stephens

    April 1, 2014 (17:02) Reply

    I didn’t know of this book until reading about it here. I’ll definitely be buying it – his music has meant a lot to me for at least 45 years now, and after all that time, I’m still awed that someone can do what he does.

  6. Dave Howells

    September 7, 2014 (14:45) Reply

    I have been a HUGE fan of Gary since I first heard his music in the 70’s, and I am enjoying the book tremendously. A great read. Some jazz biographies, auto or otherwise, have been a bitter disappointment. Grant Green, Zawinul, Bill Evans weren’t exactly inspiring or very informative, but this, probably because it’s written by the talented man himself, is just great – amusing, detailed and definitely uplifting! It must be pretty good because I’m already looking up pieces of his work I don’t yet have in my CD/vinyl collection. My music book of the year!

  7. Wayne Hasselbrinck

    April 1, 2016 (11:37) Reply

    Congratulations on the Jazz Masters award. Glad to see the PHS Tiger doing well as usual. I am sure there will many more well deserved awards down the road. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you at Vibratto’s or another venue in the LA area.
    Your classmate,
    Wayne Hasselbrinck

  8. Jane Howard

    August 9, 2016 (09:51) Reply

    Gary, Loved your book…..thanks for writing. I didn’t know you and Phil rode horses; they are my passion and I still ride at 73 yo. I live in Florida, also, and we have an Indiana man who makes “Indiana tenderloins” just like Dick Clarks in case you ever get a craving. My neighbors were Jack and Gladys Saylor on Hall street, and I remember when you and your family moved to Princeton and came to visit them. You once came to my house for a party….your date was Prudy Puckett.

    I don’t remember who I was with but a group of us used to go to your house and listen to the Burton family jam. I always knew you would be a great success in your life.

    My childhood dream of being a cardiologist was fulfilled with many happy years of practicing at a tertiary care center in Indianapolis. It’s too bad you had to learn first hand about our craft.

    Your Mom attended one of your concerts in Indiana (?Clowes Hall) and I was there, too, cheering you on.

    All us Princeton folks are proud of you!

    (Mary) Jane Rothert Howard PHS class of ’61

  9. Ragnar

    May 13, 2017 (05:52) Reply

    Hallo G(ary). We spoke some years ago, just for some minutes, after a show in Molde at Kinosalen. Young hiphopheads, me and some friends. A rap Group had sampled some of Your notes for a song or more, and when I found out you played those melodies I sdtarted listening more to Your work. Probably heard alot before that too, since grown up With a musically Cultural creative family. Love Your Music. Even was at another concert at Bjørnsonhuset With great seats I remember. Well the sounds might be just as good wherever. I have started playing keys more now, arent extremely profound With harmonies and rythm, allways, and I might not haver to be the best liveplayer With synthesizer and other instruments. Im getting better, and some of what I manage to record makes good hiphopbeats or instrumentals. I am a much mre qualified vocalyrythemer and making songs is bringing happyness to my life. I know you have a vibraphone somewhere in Norway, and is wondering if I can test it a tad bit for a jamsession to record and get some real beautifull fonethicals for fundaments to my songs. You have to approve and tell me where I can try carefully to create something, tell someone that Im allowed, maybe show me yourself how or watch and listen, if you think so. Is it ok? Mvh Ragnar

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