Just Can't Wait by Woodrow Wilkins
Live ReviewsMore articles about Jon Burr
Just Can't Wait
At Birdland on this Sunday afternoon people were walking in and finding their seats while the musicians were still arranging their music and making last-minute preparations. Everybody was anxious to see what this concert was going to be about, for it was by invitation only. This was Burr's daythe consummation of his entire musical career, all put into this one concert, featuring, of course, his songs and documented on DVD. The singers sat to the left of the stage waiting to be called up to perform.
Then Burr gave a polite introduction for each singer and told something about when and how he wrote the songs before inviting Stephens on stage for the first vocal. What followed was a swinging happy tune delivered with a big smile yet in a bluesy manner. The second song, performed by Kole, was a soft light tune suited to her pure clear voice. Nothing too dramaticjust an appealing, gentle song.
Stephens came back up and Burr took a moment to pick up the electric bass, counted off the tempo, and established a pulse I knew he had learned from Buddy Rich. Burr played electric bass like it was a musical instrument and not a rock machine. This style of playing so influenced the drummer and guitarist that it changed the entire sound of the band from a traditional rhythm section to an all-out blowing group suggestive of a Chick Corea electric band or Miles Davis electric group. The concert continued in the same vein throughout the performance: introduction of the singer and song, with changing textures in the switch from acoustic bass to electric bass, acoustic guitar to electric guitar, and from soprano saxophone to tenor saxophone.
It seems appropriate here to pay special attention to the role of the guitar in the arrangements. Hart changed the tone from a folk guitar, to a rock guitar, to a jazz guitar, and even to an organ sound in the blues, providing the added color that in turn brought out the colorful tones of the singers and songs, leading to a uniquely compelling overall sound. My entire body was vibrating from the harmony, blend and orchestration of the band. These artists really had respect for the music, arrangements and the singers. 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 and accompanying the singers with the highest standards of musical performance.
Finally, Yaala Ballin came up to sing, a vocalist I had heard in a different band. She's an understated, smooth, quietly inviting artist who was a genuine pleasure to listen to, especially while blending her voice with the tenor sax and guitar, reminding this listener of Rodgers and Hammerstein's score from South Pacific. But Ballin sounded better than the original cast from South Pacific. The solos from the tenor, guitar and piano reached a high pitch of excitement, as integral and mutually complementary as cream and coffee.
So often a band's program consists entirely of standards from known composers. But Burr in one sense 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. Moreover, all the singers were very comfortable with the words and melodies and presented the songs in the proper context.
One moment, you will be redirected shortly.