Pennsylvania-based flautist Leslie Burrs' new CD, Impressions of Another You
, is a duet session with pianist Kenny Barron; it's Burrs' first release since 2002's Blue Harlem, Black Knight
. It certainly does
give an impression of another Burrsa much better onethan did the just-reissued 2002 record, an overcooked studio confection where his playing was often surrounded and overwhelmed by calculated arrangements that flirted withand often crossed the line intonew age and lite jazz. Impressions of Another You
couldn't be more different. Recorded live in a concert setting (the liner notes make no mention of the time or place, or even that this is a live album, but it sounds like a hall, not a club), it's just Burrs on flute, alto flute and various bamboo flutes, and Barron on piano, working through a collection of standards with one Burrs composition and one Burrs/Barron piece. Let's say right off that this is an album that any flautist should check out. Burrs is an outrageously good flautist with an unerring, crisp articulation at any speed and pitch, and this setting gives him lots and lots of room to stretch out and solo, especially during ten-minute-plus versions of "My One and Only Love" (the opener, with a gorgeous Barron intro) and "My Funny Valentine," where he characteristically states the tune's vocal melody before launching into a score of dazzling variations, runs and alternate melodies.
There's more to great music than technique, though. Burrs calls his music "urban classical," as if jazz were not altogether respectable (certainly it wasn't in 1926, but it's hardly the soundtrack of street corners and cathouses nowadays), and, indeed, his playing has a strongsometimes overwhelmingtaste of the conservatory. Even when he's improvising, it sounds written down, recited. Burrs can play everything but the blues, and he's not a naturally swinging player. Barron plays with a complete deference throughout; he accompanies Burrs as one would a vocalist, and a touchy vocalist at that. This is Burrs' show all the way. That said, a restrained Barron is still wonderful, and he shines throughout; his stride-inflected solo on the surging "Cherokee" is perfect, and one can never tire of his comping with its trademark terse left-handed licks. The problem is that Barron always swings
, and Burrs sounds stodgy in comparison.
The exceptions to this, though, are above reproach. "Aryssa's Carol" is the most collaborative moment, a pensive meditation with rich, minor chords where Burrs trades in some of his fireworks for feeling (he even plays a little blue, uncharacteristically bending and flatting notes). And then there's the polar opposite found in John Coltrane's modal composition "Impressions," where Burrs really loses himself in astonishing approximations of Trane's sonic clusters; here the flautist's pyrotechnics have a perfect vehicle and the displays of virtuosity seem heartfelt.
Certainly there is no flautist working today with greater technique than Leslie Burrs. Impressions of Another You
demonstrates that he's got nothing left to learn about his instrumentexcept, perhaps, more of the feeling that makes great jazz music.