Jon Burr Band
JUST CAN’T WAIT. jbQ Media. www.jbq.net.
www.jonburrband.com. Just Can’t Wait, Please Tell Me, Been Here All Along, Snowfall, None of Them Is
You, Eden by the Sea, Song of a Broken Word, I Understand You’re Leaving Me, Rainbow over Harlem, Sea Breeze, Nobody Said It Was Easy, Another Kind Love, Dancing with a Stranger, It’s Only Love.
PERSONNEL: Jon Burr, bass, leader, composer, lyricist; Ty Stephens, Hilary Kole, Laurel Massé, Tyler Burr, Yaala Ballin, vocals; Houston Person, tenor saxophone; Joel Frahm, tenor & soprano saxophone; Mario Cruz, Bob Mintzer, Anat Cohen, saxophones; Dominick Farinacci, trumpet; John Hart, Yotam Silberstein, Howard Alden, guitar; Jon Davis, Loston Harris, Ted Rosenthal, piano; Anthony Pinciotti, Dave Gibson, drums. [Carlos Gomez, Percussion] [– ed.]
By Bill Donaldson
[Drum roll.] “Please give a warm welcome to…
The Jon Burr Band!”
In the unending spirit of delighting audiences through the act of performing music, Jon Burr’s band certainly succeeded in that endeavor at Birdland in December, 2007. That much is obvious from viewing the DVD that accompanies the Jon Burr Band’s release recordings from that evening, Just Can’t Wait. After his prepared introduction about the omnipresence iPods and the stylistic versatility of the members his recent band, Burr wastes no time in giving the Birdland audience its money’s worth—and more— by launching into a set consisting entirely of his own compositions. Appropriately enough, the songs are crowd-pleasers, relating to events of everyday life and helping listeners get happy and chase all the blues away through the band’s stimulus package of fun, even during the more pensive pieces like “Sea Breeze.”
Burr’s band consists of like-minded, swinging veterans like Houston Person and talent deserving much wider recognition like singer Ty Stephens. Indeed, Stephens is a major presence throughout Just Can’t Wait, even as other equally engaging singers like Hilary Kole, Yaala Ballin, Laurel Massé and Tyler Burr contribute to the celebration of Jon Burr’s music too. When groove occurs and finger-snapping breaks out, Stephens, winner of the 2006 Jazz Mobile Vocal Award, usually is the one holding the microphone. The Just Can’t Wait DVD provides but a glimpse of his talent. Stephens’ re-creation of Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher” is a not-to-be-missed treat.) Stephens presents a variety of moods established by Burr’s compositions. A calming ballad like “Rainbow over Harlem” displays Stephens’ right-on pitch and his internalization of the lyrics. Burr’s gorgeous solo on the same song allows him to improvise in melodic and insouciant fashion. However, all of the potential excitement of Burr’s group emerges on “None of Them Is You,” propelled by a “Killer Joe”-like vamp and Burr’s assured walking bass lines. After Stephens delivers the song’s concept of feminine uniqueness, the effectiveness of Burr’s guest musicians (on the CD recorded at Bennett Studios and not on the DVD of the live performance) becomes apparent when trumpeter Dominic Farinacci takes over after the first chorus, elevating the piece to a yet higher level of irresistibility.
Other top-notch musicians include Bob Mintzer on “I Understand You’re Leaving Me,” where, like Farinacci, he enhances the atmosphere of the song with not only his solo but also his colloquy with Stephens during the delivery of the distraught expression of loss. On “Eden by the Sea,” a lightly swinging composition, Ted Rosenthal accompanies Yaala Ballin as she brings life to Burr’s reminiscence about an ocean-side paradise he no doubt visited, as well as backing Burr’s daughter, Tyler, on “It’s Only Love,” sung with tender force. Anat Cohen and Howard Alden enhance the flow of Ballin’s description of a “Sea Breeze,” both with sinuous harmonic lines and understated solos evocative of Brazilian sambas. In addition, Burr features a group of exceptional musicians in the band that appeared at Birdland, as shown on the DVD, including Houston Person, John Frahm and John Hart. Person’s famous ability to interact with singers, as well as the twang of Hart’s playing, makes “Just Can’t Wait” a perfect opening number for the evening—and for the recordings.
Burr also recruited singers Hilary Kole and Laurel Massé as appropriate for some of his other songs. On “Snowfall,” Kole lightens the mood of the evening with upper-register long tones, supplemented by Mintzer’s or Frahm’s dulcet harmonic lines, suggesting radio-friendly ethereality and longing. Interpreting “Song of a Broken Word” in a broad range, starting at the lower end of her range and swooping upward during the bridge, Massé infuses the piece with tragic emotion while telling a story recalled by a song on the radio.
After a decades-long career as a bassist with some of the most well-known names in jazz, including Chet Baker and Stephane Grappelli, Jon Burr has stepped out to establish his own reputation as a composer, lyricist and band leader with recordings of his own music. Not only did Burr’s band keep the Birdland audience entertained, but also it provided additional exposure for a range of jazz talent in sync with Burr’s work.