Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart

Chris May By

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Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart
The violin has an eventful history in jazz. But it is still a niche instrument, despite a line of singular players stretching back to Stephane Grappelli and Stuff Smith (who deserves some bonus points for composing the immortal "If You're A Viper"). There are no schools of jazz violinists, simply a succession of one-off stylists, with Grappelli, Smith, John Blake, Michael White, Leroy Jenkins, Regina Carter and Billy Bang prominent among them. There is also Ornette Coleman, but let's not go there.

It is good to welcome another original talent to this lineage. Johanna Burnheart is a rising star on the London scene through her work on spiritual-jazz band Maisha's There Is A Place (Brownswood, 2018), trombonist Rosie Turton's 5ive (Jazz Re:freshed, 2019), trumpeter Yazz Ahmed's Polyhymnia (Ropeadope, 2019) and Floating Circles Quartet's Humble Travelers (self produced, 2020).

Burnheart's own-name debut, Burnheart, is an electro-acoustic affair which is sonically in line with Ahmed's Polyhymnia and was co-produced by Ahmed's producer, Noel Langley. The music is characterised by deep grooves, spacey Wurlizter and synthesizer lines and Burnheart's sinewy violin.

Burnheart's quartet, like Floating Circles Quartet, with whom she shares her bassist, Jonny Wickham, is composed of fellow alumni of London's Guildhall School of Music & Drama (which also counts Ahmed and Langley among its graduates). It is a well-balanced lineup, with Wikham, keyboard player David Swan and drummer Boz Martin-Jones providing hard-wired sympatico support. A striking and assured debut.

Track Listing

Box Office; Forever Dance; Mensch; Mythos; Never Let Me Go; Plastik; Silence Is Golden; Sysiphos.


Johanna Burnheart: violin; David Swan: piano; Jonny Wickham: bass, acoustic; Boz Martin-Jones: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Johanna Burnheart: violin, voice, synthesizer, dustbin lid (5); David Swan: Wurlitzer, synthesizer; Jonny Wickham: double bass; Boz Martin-Jones: drums, shaker; Noel Langley: Hermeto's frog and bottle tops (5).

Album information

Title: Burnheart | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Ropeadope

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