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Live Reviews

Jon Burr Band at Birdland, NYC

By Published: December 27, 2007
Burr's brilliance especially shown in his matching of singer with song, since he had three singers with three different voices and three different styles. Additionally, he called upon his lovely 14-year-old daughter to sing one of the songs for what was a winning performance. The father, I know, was very nervous about this performance, but he had every reason to be proud about the final result. Burr presented the performers so professionally with his thought-out introductions, along with assuming numerous other tasks, such as counting off the right tempo to capture the true flavor of each song. If the tempo wasn't right, Burr would composedly stop the band and start over.

It was only afterwards that a listener could savor the full experience of this event, and these are some of the lingering impressions: Ty Stephens is a swinger, who wants to have fun singing while including the audience. His rhythmic feel is very exacting, making him easy to listen to and watch.

Hilary Kole is a diva and, with her long hair and presence on stage, a striking woman. Vocally, her tone is like a bell ringing with the pitch right on, allowing her to be in exact synch with the tenor. In sum, her quality and style were highly reminiscent of a Joni Mitchell.

Yaala Ballin is the almost mystic and mysterious, subdued jazz singer with her understated style and clear voice. Unlike Kole, she was almost self-effacing on stage after she walked up, her presence not of itself arresting. Yet when she sang, her voice moved from one note to the next with the authority of a Frank Sinatra, especially the Sinatra who sang bossa nova tunes on the two albums he made with Jobim. We look forward to many great recordings from this young, unassuming giant.

As for the instrumentalists, Jon Davis is the all-around veteran pianist with great technique and empathy that fits in with what is going on. He also took some impressive solos, making him a versatile asset to any band. John Hart (guitar) was the orchestrator of the band with the many different sounds coming out of his guitar—originating from six foot pedals and two guitars. Hart also played some outstanding solos in addition to communicating well with the tenor player, Joel Frahm, during some tightly executed duets. Frahm was the featured jazz soloist in the band, perhaps in part because Burr loves the sound of the tenor sax after performing with Stan Getz for so many years. Frahm, moreover, is quickly establishing the credentials of a Getz and is a player who will subordinate his own talent to the requirements of the occasion. Anthony Pinciotti, drummer, was a solid foundation and an attentive accompanist, providing the right fills at the right volume, and covering all the styles. Burr knew what kind of percussionist he needed and obviously picked the right musician for the job.

Finally, someone had the courage to try something new within the traditions of jazz and popular music. After hearing so many copy-cat bands here in NYC, it was refreshing to hear an ensemble that was reaching out for the new while not letting go of the tried and true.


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