Story in Hot House (NYC) March 2013

A SWINGING BASSIST AND GIFTED composer, Jon Burr first gained national attention touring with violin great Stephane Grappelli for a decade. Burr also played or recorded with Buddy Rich, Horace Silver, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Hank Jones, Art Farmer and Tony Bennett, among many others. In addition, he was a founding member of violinist Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio with guitarist Frank Vignola.

Burr's parents encouraged him to learn an instrument, but thought pursuing a music career was risky. Clem DeRosa, a pioneer of jazz education, provided early inspiration to him. "His high school big band had played on Johnny Carson's show and won national competitions,” Burr said. Eager to soak up DeRosa's knowledge, Burr became a member of the big band. "Clem knew Marian McPartland and invited her to our school. I got to play with her, and she invited me to Sherman Fairchild's house." A photo taken there appeared in Downbeat.
"The first really good bass player I heard was Linc Milliman, who was working with her then. In 1969, when I was at Berklee on a scholarship, Marian was there for three weeks at the jazz workshop with Michael Moore and I was checking him out every night; he was a great mentor." Burr credits Charles Mingus with drawing him to the bass. "When I told Clem that I was going to hear Mingus, he said to tell him 'hello.' I talked to Mingus backstage and passed along Clem's greeting. When Mingus learned I played bass, he asked me to play the next set. I didn't know enough to refuse. I played it and at the end Charles McPherson told the audience, “It's nice to see young people comin’ up right.”

In January, the bassIst completed a live recording of music he wrote for big band, made possible by his successful Kickstarter campaign. The ensemble includes Jerry Dodgion, Marc Phaneuf Tim Armacost, Andy Farber and Roger Rosenberg on saxophones; Greg Ruvolo, Chris Pasin, Joe Giorgianni, and Brandon Lee in the trumpet section; trombonists Nate Mayland, Matt Haviland, Joe Schaefer and Joe Randazzo, along with a rhythm section consisting of Vic Juris, Steve Johns, Mike Eckroth and Evan Gregor.

Burr is enthusiastic about the results: "There were a few times when the band really lit up during the performance. When you see a bunch of guys turn their heads to watch soloists something is starting to percolate on the bandstand." Burr's extensive touring with Stephane Grappelli made a tribute album inevitable. Recording recently wrapped for “The Music of Grappelli,” featuring his trio with guitarist Howard Alden and violinist Jonathan Russell, plus Bria Skonberg on vocals and cornet.

"It was a labor of love; the project is a re-creation of the music we used to play in Stephane's trio. He was so generous, inclusive and egalitarian as a leader," Burr reflects. "There are a lot of bands paying tribute to the Hot Club and Django Reinhardt, but Stephane is overlooked because people know him as Django's partner. Even at age 79, he confessed to the band after a dressing room interview, “You don't know how sick I am of that question, "What was it like to play with Django Reinhardt?” He was an artist in his own right and made a major contribution to the world of jazz violin. He was always looking forward. His repertoire included Sonny Rollins' 'Pent-Up House' and Stevie Wonder's 'You Are the Sunshine of My Life.'" The violinist for the recording is 17 year-old prodigy Jonathan Russell, who started learning the instrument at three and was already a gifted improviser at seven. Burr recalls, "I used to bring a recorder on the gigs for quality control and to monitor my performance. I still had the tapes and shared them with Jonathan, who intensely studied and transcribed them." Howard Alden has been a part of the New York jazz scene nearly as long as Burr. "Howard is the most literate musician I know; he reminds me of Hank Jones. Everything that Hank played had a source; it might have been a quote from the shout chorus of a Chick Webb recording or the verse to an obscure Harold Arlen song. Howard is like that; everything he plays is supremely sensible and well-crafted. He would have been magnificent with Stephane; he'll find a harmony for the melodic line and put it in just the right place; he's like an instant arranger on the guitar."

The Jon Burr Trio with Howard Alden, Jonathan Russell and guest Bria Skonberg will perform at Smalls on March 15, playing music from Burr's forthcoming CD “The Music of Grappelli.”

Ken Dryden for Hot House Magazine

Jon Burr Band:Just Can’t Wait CD/DVD

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“Burr ... went beyond a Buddy Rich, Tony Bennett or Stan Getz because he was the songwriter and lyricist as well as a performer. Burr simply dared to take that extra step of creating and presenting original, unfamiliar material. These artists really had respect for the music... Throughout, it was clear this was not an ego trip but a group of musicians performing with a common goal of creating the best music with the highest standards of musical performance. Finally, someone had the courage to try something new within the traditions of jazz and popular music."—Greg Waters/

"Slapping the bass for over 30 years with a lot of greats before they died and quite a few other greats that haven’t died yet, this stylistic genre bender gets back to his pop jazz roots with a swinging, yupscale jazz set that deceptively hides it’s deep chops and is specially geared to bringing non-jazz ears into the tent. A fun romp throughout, this set also includes a DVD to give you a taste of how it feels if you come out to catch it all happening live. He knows a lot of cool players and it seems like a boatload of them showed up to help power these proceedings. A winning collection throughout."—CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher,

“Those of you lucky enough to have attended the November NJJS Member Meeting were treated to an in-depth visit with one of the top bassists on the scene, JON BURR. Burr is more than a cat who shows up on a gig to play his axe. He is also a fine composer, lyricist, leader and jazz educator. On Just Can't Wait (jbQ Media-205), a CD/DVD set, the programs consist entirely of original songs by Burr. The 14-song CD was recorded in a studio, and the DVD was recorded during a performance at Birdland with a 15-song program tha tincludes13 of the songs on the CD. The band personnel on the CD varies, while on the DVD, the players are Burr on bass, Jon Davis on piano, John Hart on guitar and Anthony Pinciotti on drums, with Houston Person and Joel Frahm sharing the saxophone chair. There are five singers involved in the project with Hilary Kole, Ty Stephens, Yaala Ballin and Tyler Burr present on both discs, and Laurel Masse only singing on the CD. Stevens and Ballin handle most of the vocal chores, and they are each outstanding at handling material that covers a fairly wide stylistic spectrum. Tyler Burr is the daughter of Jon Burr, and her contribution is as vocalist and lyricist on "It's only Love," an impressive accomplishment for a young artist. Burr has a nice way with both melody and words, and his chosen players and singers effectively immerse themselves in the spirit of the songs. Just Can't Wait is a nice way to spend some time with the eclectic artistry of Jon Burr.”—Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz (Journal of the New Jersey Jazz Society)

Jon Burr Quartet: In My Own Words CD

“This is a terrific recording, a first class quartet under the leadership of a fine bassist, Jon Burr. Bassists have a way of surprising people when they come out of the rhythm section role and reveal a talent for composition, arrangement, and the balance and direction of an ensemble. There is a feel here not unlike that of vintage Steps Ahead: certainly Rich Perry's tone on tenor recalls Michael Brecker, and the leader's supple sense of time in ensemble playing matches up well with that of Eddie Gomez. Burr's solos bring out a voice very much his own, however, a voice we hear more of in the even dozen engagingly melodic compositions that he has contributed to the session. Bill Charlap on piano and Terry Clarke on drums round out the band—and the result is as well-rounded as one might ask.—Bill Bennett/Jazz Times

 “An impressive debut recording featuring NYC bassist Jon Burr as leader. Working with pianist Bill Charlap, saxophonist Rich Perry, and drummer Terry Clarke, Burr explores the heart of mainstream jazz. But this talented group is not working over standards; twelve of the thirteen compositions are Burr originals. Gorgeous is the word for them. From the contrapuntal "Blear" to the evocative, Horace-inspired "Silver Water," Burr's melodic gift is omnipresent and roams from the sweet to moody. "Lament" and "Snowfall" are particularly staggering compositions.
Burr's is the kind of work that makes you think jazz isn't being made in the obvious places, by the "young lions." Even though he's a well-known bassist on the New York scene, Burr seems to have escaped notice by the major U.S. jazz labels. The reason why escapes me.—Philip Dawdy, Bassics Magazine,Vol VI, #2

“It is the latter efforts – “Nobody Said it was Easy” and “Three for All” – that best summarize this happy-fingered program. The melodies are hummable, the tempos are toe-tappers…”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"..a terrific Burr original, `Rainbow Over Harlem'...
Chip Deffaa, New York Post

"Bassist Jon Burr's "[3[For All" sets a soaring violin melody above a jaunty
stepwise bass to create a mood of ultimate cool.."—Wayne Lee Gay, Ft. Worth StarTelegram

“Hot Swing's bassist Jon Burr contributed a beautiful tune called "Lament" to the program”—Jack Walton, South Bend Tribune

Performance reviews:

"Newcomer Jon a technical master, for whom `In a Sentimental Mood' and `Blue Monk' were perfect frameworks."—Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

"Burr erected solid foundations and filled his accompaniment with clever embellishments as well. His unaccompanied `Makin' Whoopee' was a playground of swings and slides and received one of the evening's biggest ovations."—Bill Kohlhaase, Los Angeles Times

 "Could hardly have asked for better...Burr was always where he needed to be, his bass lines filled with big, fat bottom notes, his solos bringing the perspective of a high-technique, contemporary improvisational style to a straight-ahead jazz setting.”—Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

 "...backed by...Jon Burr on bass, the music radiated effortless joy and ease."—Peter Watrous, New York Times

 "Burr...proved the bass a solo instrument of energy and grace in the right hands."—John Farrell, Pasadena Journal-News

 "...bassist Burr, who had a couple of splendid solos..."—Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

 "..Burr, in typically alert form, adds to the momentum and texture with his exceptionally nimble accompaniment..."—Mike Joyce, Washington Post

 “ No less gifted is New Yorker Burr, a... young-looking bassist with ... subtlety and clever good taste…music that is elegant, fluid, and filled with the joy of life” – Ron Banks, The West Australian