Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review of “The Untold Secret to Melodic Bass” in Bass World Magazine

September 4, 2011

[Bass World Magazine is the publication of The International Society of Bassists. This review appeared in the August issue, Vol 35, #1, pp 54-55]

The Untold Secret to Melodic Bass

– Jon Burr

jbQ Media


32 pages

Jon Burr is a noted first call bassist in the New York area, having performed with such jazz greats as Horace Silver, Stan Getz, Tony Bennett, and Chet Baker. This brief but highly informative book is one of a written series concerning melodic bass lines and improvisation. This is not a book for beginners. Knowledge of jazz harmony and chord changes is necessary. Knowing that, through this book Jon will give you many great ideas on how to “learn how to think like a composer of bass lines, how to plan ahead, and make choices that are appropriate to the style of the song.”

As with many authors of education books, Jon uses his own terms to describe his musical ideas. These terms work very well in defining his methods of developing bass lines. There are two sections of the book. In section one, Jon lays out his ideas on what notes to use for bass lines, starting with “Anchor Notes (the root),” “Pivot Notes,” and “Lead-ins.” A fascinating insight used in this book is the introduction of the use of rhythmic accents in even the most basic of bass lines. In his first example, which is the repeated root note of the chords that make up the first four bars of a twelve-bar -blues, the second and fourth beats are written as accented. As stated, “The use of accents is an essential parameter in establishing ‘feel,’ or style.” Though only hinted on in the beginning, the idea of accents is developed very convincingly throughout the book. Most books teaching bass lines stay within the harmonic aspects of the development of the line, and discuss the use of rhythm in the context of style (latin, funk, etc.). Jon brings both concepts together, showing us how rhythm and accents can make a more supportive, musical line.

Jon uses the concept of “tension and release” in discussing his ideas of melody. Through the use of the aforementioned “Pivot notes” and “Lead-ins,” these notes are used to develop your melodic bass line, and there are many good examples in this section. Section two begins with a very convincing argument about “swing.” In brief, instead of pulling against the pulse of the music, Jon shows how to create tension and release through the use of accents and regrouping of rhythms for a more effective line. By analyzing where accents are and what goes before and after, and the placement of offbeat notes as compared to the downbeat notes, the book makes a very compelling thesis in the art of swing! Also discussed in this section is what Jon calls “Rhythmic Overlays;” rhythms that come from lyrics, “second line” rhythms, or the “clave” form found in Afro-Cuban music. From these rhythms, the bassist can come up with lines that complement and support the music. The last concept, called “Harmonic Dynamics,” deals with dynamics, techniques of how to achieve them, and the use of note placement to bring out dynamics.

This book would be a great addition to anyone’s library as another way of looking at how to develop bass lines that are interesting, imaginative, and above all musical and melodic. The section on swing is highly recommended for study, not only for bassists, but all jazz musicians. Jon’s comments on the “Basie” style of swing are very eye-opening and informative. You can also read about the book on Facebook, and catch up with Jon ‘s blog at

– Review by Lou Pappas, Bass World Magazine

(Available for purchase here)


Great Review for The Giant Cicada in Leicester Bangs Music Blog

June 14, 2011

Giant Cidada – S/T EP (JBQ Media)
Described by one critic as chamber punk, the Giant Cicada certainly demonstrate the instrumentation and attitude to carry it off, but it only goes some way to telling their story. Their mix of jazz, baroque folk, bluegrass and alternative is both unusual and charming, and although they’re decidedly ragged around the edges, their musicianship burns bright.

Led by bassist Jon Burr (check out his website for his full résumé, but make sure you’re sitting down) and vocalist Lynn Stein, they’re joined by an amazing array of talented individuals, including jazz-violin protégé Jonathan Russell, guitarists Nick Russo and John Hart, and renowned percussionist Carlos “Go-Go” Gomez. Their energetic approach to the material seems squarely aimed at the dance floor – they’d go down a storm at any number of UK folk festivals – but they’re equally concerned with quality songwriting, which is understandable considering they’ve a singer with a near-perfect voice.

Standout songs skip along at regular intervals. “Liquid Summer” has all the appeal of Eddi Reader’s Fairground Attraction, “Tell Me About Your Life” is rootsy and organic, and their version of “Fever” just maybe unique. Well worth checking out.

Rob F.

Original post here

Great review for the Giant Cicada EP in the “Oliver di Place” Music Blog!

June 7, 2011

Giant CicadaGonna Get Through


Giant Cicada is a group that makes music in the cracks. Is this jazz, folk, Americana, what? Some of my favorite music doesn’t fit neatly in any genre, and I will add this to the list. The rhythm section of this band is a cajon, (a hand-played box drum), and bowed bass. On top of this, add guitar, fiddle, and the wonderful vocals of Lynn Stein. There is also bottleneck guitar on some tracks. Gonna Get Through has a Brazilian lilt, both in the playing and in Stein’s vocal. But the song also has the propulsive drive of 80s rock. Giant Cicada’s gift is to take these incongruous elements and have them make sense together. Stein is an emotional singer who never has to shout, and that really puts this album over the top.

– Darius Rips, Oliver di Place Music Blog, June 6 2011

Review in the Valdosta Daily Times

June 12, 2009

By Dean Poling 

VDT View 


Jon Burr Band

 Bass player Jon Burr is a stand-up guy. The bass player has worked with luminaries such as Buddy Rich, Tony Bennett, and Chet Baker. In creating this CD and accompanying live DVD, Burr couldn’t wait to work with all-star contemporaries such as Anat Cohen, Joel Frahm, Houston Person, Howard Alden, Bob MIntzer, and Ted Rosenthal. He works with his daughter, Tyler Burr, who co-wrote a few of the lyrics for this CD’s songs. “Just Can’t Wait,” however, is all driven by Jon Burr’s vision and passion as a lyricist, composer and arranger. And let’s not forget as a performer. From the studio-produced CD to the live DVD at New York City’s’ Birdland, this is one album well worth the wait.

Interview on

May 29, 2009

Jon Burr 

Bandleader And Diplomat 

Artist Interview by: Susan Frances

Jazz PhotoBassist, composer, producer, arranger, and bandleader Jon Burr has learned to not only be an astute musician, but also to be an astute diplomat when it comes to dealing with other musicians, and bringing out the best from them.  His latest release is a CD/DVD set entitled Just Can’t Wait that features live footage of him on the upright bass, performing with his band for a special show at the Birdland in New York City.  Accompanying Burr on the recording are vocalists Hilary Kole, Laurel Massé, Ty Stephens, Yaala Ballin and Jon’s daughter Tyler Burr, in addition to saxophonists Houston Person, Bob Mintzer, Anat Cohen, and Joel Frahm; trumpeter Dominic Farinacci; pianists Ted Rosenthal, Jon Davis and Loston Harris; and guitarists John Hart, Yotam Silberstein, and Howard Alden.  Jazziz Magazine touted the release as, “This is a terrific recording.”

Burr has a liking for straight-ahead and improvisational jazz, and knows how to bring these textures out in his band.  Born in Huntington, Long Island, Burr studied at Berklee College of Music and the University of Illinois. He has toured and recorded with many great jazz masters, including Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Horace Silver, Hank Jones, Art Farmer, Stephane Grappelli (from 1986-1997), Sir Roland Hanna, Dorothy Donegan, and Buddy Rich.   From 1980 – 1985, he toured with Tony Bennett and has also worked with Lainie Kazan, Rita Moreno, Barbara Cook, Eartha Kitt, among others.  One can say that he has worked with the best, and learned from the masters on how to treat his band and bring out the best from them.  Burr reveals how Just Can’t Wait came together, and what makes it such a memorable project for himself and audiences.  Why did you decide to make Just Can’t Wait a CD/DVD set?  Why did you want to include live footage of your band for this project?

Burr:  The CD invites a question from the perspective of a possible presenter: what would this project look like in performance? The CD was done over a period of time with diverse ensembles, many great musicians, but they’re not all going to get on a plane to go do some hall somewhere; it’s neither practical nor affordable.  This project is really about the songs, more so than the individuals, all of whom gave stellar, virtuoso performances. The songs have been performed with varying personnel, as can be seen on our YouTube channel, The songs have proven themselves as platforms for the performers; the performers we’ve had the honor to work with have drawn inspiration from the material, and the energy has been fantastic in the band.  We were quite pleased with the way the DVD came out; with all the possible things that could go wrong, it not only went smoothly, but because the musicians involved had been involved in the recording and some other live performances, the spirit of inspiration visited that stage more than few times when the cameras were running, and it was quite exciting. The audience reaction gives a hint about how well it went.  Another reason to do video is YouTube; these days, the more chances to be seen and heard the better, and there’s nothing like a document of a live performance to give the viewer a real sense of the artist. There are other potential outlets for video that we are exploring, and are open to any and all opportunities to air this.

JazzReview:   How did you choose which songs to record for Just Can’t Wait?  What did you want to bring out in these compositions, especially where you added vocalists Ty Stevens and Hilary Kole?

Burr:  We recorded 18 titles altogether in this project, and used 14 of those on the CD, and a slightly different assortment from the 18 on the DVD. These songs represent my best work available at the time of the recording; I didn’t give any thought to marketability or anything else; the objective was to bring the songs to life, which we did.  The songs are an assortment of styles, and each suggested a stylistic approach best exemplified by particular individuals whose work I was familiar with. I’m grateful to all of the terrific performers who gave of their talents on this. Ty Stephens is one of the hardest-swinging singers I know and a great interpreter of a wide range of styles; Hilary Kole is a musician’s singer, can read and internalize anything, quickly, then make you cry with it by the third time through. Laurel Massé is another great talent, with a wisdom, gravitas, and refined dramatic sense about her. Yaala Ballin is a very progressive jazz interpreter with advanced phrasing that belies her years, with a youthful and distinctive sound on top of it. My daughter Tyler Burr is destined for a life on the boards; she lives and breathes musical theater, and she’s really good – especially at fifteen years old.

JazzReview:  What was the inspiration for the arrangement on “Snowfall”?  How did this track come together?

Burr:  Snowfall was written as an instrumental during a – you guessed it – snowfall  – 🙂 back in 1992. It appeared on my first recording as a leader, “In My Own Words,” released in 1996 on the now-defunct Cymekob label. The thing gives it its particular quality is the suspended melody against the piano/guitar ostinato. It was originally more of a Latin-new agey thing, but the consulting producer I was working with thought it might sell more if we included a backbeat… so, the result is the product of a negotiation, but it works nonetheless. There’s a particularly strong collective improvisation between John Hart and Bob Mintzer on the CD, and Joel Frahm and John Hart on the DVD.

JazzReview:  When you were recording these tracks, were you influenced by other bass players or musicians about how to orchestrate these tunes?  How were the arrangements decided?

Burr:  There is minimal orchestration, really – the rhythm section is playing the parts, some of which have ostinatos, and the sax is playing obligato for the most part. We did a couple of 2-horn things when we had Mario Cruz and Dominic Farinacci on the date together – None of Them is You and Rainbow Over Harlem are two in particular. Mario was very helpful with the horn parts – we took the time to pick the right notes out of the chords. Most of the ostinatos, particularly the grueling guitar ostinato in Please Tell Me, I wrote.  The arrangements per se were dictated by the desire to keep all the cuts under 5 minutes, so we tried to find a logical place to come back in after a solo, for example, without necessarily having the whole song stated on the way out.  The project as a whole was greatly inspired by Charlie Mingus, who was a bassist/composer/bandleader. Mingus’ approach was a template for me in that he had a band, it was his music, but it was more about the writing and the whole sound of it than the individuals in particular. The main difference here is that my writing is songs, rather than jazz compositions or “tunes.”

JazzReview:   How did you meet your band members – Houston Person, Joel Frahm, Jon Davis, John Hart, and Anthony Pinciotti?

Burr:  I see that the question refers in particular to the personnel on the DVD.  I had a gig in Tarrytown with Mark Morganelli at a benefit for his Jazz Forum Arts Non-Profit, and Houston was on the gig as a sideman. We hit it off musically, immediately, and I was lucky to be able to get Houston to come and play on a couple of things. One result is that Houston has been calling me to play bass in his Quartet, which is an honor and privilege and has made me a better musician. On the day of the DVD taping, Houston had a football game he wanted to watch (if possible), so we grouped his titles together at the top of the show so he could get home for the game. Houston is the kind of player – and there aren’t many – who can lock in a band by playing 2 notes, his feeling is so strong and clear. Houston showed up, locked in my band, then put his horn in the case and went home, while the band took his inspiration and sailed the rest of the afternoon.  I’ve known Joel Frahm for years, but I ran into him on a gig of Hilary’s, along with Dominic Farinacci, and was lucky to find them both available to come in and play. Joel is astounding, with boundless fluency and literacy in a huge assortment of styles.  I met Jon Davis years ago, we did a gig together, and more recently ran into him when he subbed at the St Regis at a gig I was on. We always had a great time playing duo. I’ve been running into John Hart for years on gigs, and have found him to be incredibly versatile. The band’s library asks the guitar player to execute a wide variety of styles, and John is up to them all – and then some.  I met Anthony through Barry Levitt on the Iridium Sunday Jazz Vocal Workshop Brunch (no longer happening). We clicked musically immediately – Anthony can play anything on the drums at will, which is very good, but the thing that makes him special to me is that his ability to totally commit to what he’s playing is matched by his flexibility. He goes with the bass, and makes the bass sound good – he’ll meet you half way, and THEN some – there’s been a few times when he made me sound much better than I should have…! This characteristic, of being willing to bend a little to go with the bass at times, rather than trying to be a metronome, is a characteristic of the greatest drummers I’ve had the pleasure of playing with, including Louis Hayes, Billy Hart, Jimmy Cobb, Billy Drummond, Leroy WIlliams, Jimmy Lovelace, Jeff Hamilton, Butch Miles, Joe LaBarbera, Jerome Jennings, and many others. Dave Gibson is also in this category, and we were pleased to have him on the CD for some of the cuts.

JazzReview:   What is it like working with your daughter?  Do you treat her differently from the rest of your band?

Burr:  My daughter has been performing for years in musical plays in various contexts, and her training has given her a very professional approach. She has a dogged persistence in pursuit of quality and her best work. The only difference between working with her and the others on the project was that some of her feedback to me was a little more (ahem) “frank” than that I got from the others… diplomacy erodes in families, I suppose; this is not to say she was undiplomatic; it’s more a function of the high expectations she has of her father.

JazzReview:    What are rehearsals like before a show?  Does your band practice as a whole unit or does everyone have a personalized warm-up?

Burr:  The preparation for the Birdland gig consisted of doing the studio recordings and a couple of live gigs. We didn’t rehearse prior to the taping. When something comes up, we’ll have a rehearsal.

JazzReview:  How is performing live different for you from playing in the studio?  How are you different on stage from when you play in the studio?

Burr:  The audience is part of the performance, live. The idea that the audience inspires (or discourages!) a band is no mere abstraction; it’s like mob action in the sense that the audience and the band feel each other in a visceral way, and reinforce each others’ energy. The audience reaction at Birdland was a very real factor in the development of the performance that afternoon. All of the tempos have a bit more spark on the DVD, although it’s impossible to duplicate the quality of studio sound in a live circumstance.  The main thing I was worried about for the taping was the script that my consulting co-producer insisted that I use; I like talking about the tunes and connecting with the audience, but I am not an actor, and the use of a script was a major stress-producer for me. Other than that, once the song starts, my focus is on trying to play the bass and feed the band to the best of my ability. There was a certain amount of traffic direction regarding solo order that I could have done better on the taping, but overall it went very well.

JazzReview:   How have you grown as a musician, composer and bandleader over the years?  What have you learned from playing with other musicians?

Burr:  Wow. Well, the short answer to this is that over the years I’ve learned how to listen better and get more in touch with my body, and it’s a work in progress. When we’re learning music, so much of it is about ideas and concepts and the physical challenges of dealing with the instrument, and it can take a long time for these elements to come together. Over the last few years my studies have taken me in the direction of the structure of the mind; how awareness is the king, and consciousness and feeling are the servants, and can work in a co-equal fashion. I’m currently working on my fourth method book “Physical and Mental Programming for the Improvising Bassist” that delves into these issues.  I’ll never forget hearing Milt Jackson say “music is sound and feeling,” or when Ray Brown held up his left hand for me and said, “sound,” then his right and said “time.”  I’ve learned recently that there are sixty thousand brain cells IN THE HEART. The body IS the “unconscious mind;” we have two brains, essentially, the “conscious” brain and the “feeling” brain, much of which IS the body. One can program the other; the idea is to get them working together.

JazzReview:   At what age did you begin playing the bass?  What was it about the instrument that attracted you to it?

Burr:  Around age 12 or so, I heard a Charlie Mingus record and loved the sound of it. I was also a rock guitar player’s kid brother, so I ended up starting electric bass back then too.

JazzReview:  What were your early musical experiences like?  How did these experiences help shape your style of playing?

Burr:  Some of your readers may know Clem DeRosa, who was one of the pioneers of Jazz Education. He came to my high school when I was in the 9th grade… Trumpeter John Marshall, now of the WDR Big Band in Koln, Germany, was also in that band. Clem had a big band in the summer (“The College All-Stars”) that played Trust Fund gigs around Long Island, and he had featured guests that included musicians Marian McPartland, Joe Newman, Benny Powell, Clifford Jordan, Bucky Pizzarelli, and many others that we youngsters got a chance to play with. I’ll never forget hearing Linc Milliman, and later on Larry Ridley and Buddy Catlett, with Marian’s trio. I have a “psychic snapshot” of Linc playing with Marian that stays with me to this day. Michael Moore was another McPartland alumnus who was very influential to me in the early days; they came to Boston when I was at the Berklee summer program, and I went down every night, heard Mike, talked to him, and they would have me sit in.  I went down to hear Mingus in the spring of 1969 at the age of sixteen, bearing a hello to him from Clem DeRosa, who had recorded with Mingus some years prior to then. I saw Mingus in the back hallway, and presented the “hello” I was carrying, and he asked me what I played… I said “bass” and  Mingus said “play the next set!” I didn’t know enough to refuse. Wow. THAT was an experience – after the set, Charles MacPherson said on the mic, “It’s good to see young people coming up RIGHT!”

JazzReview:   What made you decide to become a bandleader?  How is being a bandleader a natural extension of your personality?

Burr:  After working with a lot of people over the years, it became clearer and clearer that the only way to be able to implement my own musical vision or songs (or however you want to say it) was to get my own band. There are a few leaders who had played my stuff, Chet Baker and Stan Getz among them, but I had it in mind to record these songs and the only way to do it was to do it.  In most of the bands I’ve worked with, it’s about the leader; if there’s a singer, for example, the forms are usually contained, there’s not a lot of blowing, and when there is it needs not to overwhelm or upstage the singer or the leader, or whoever. There’s an effective “lid” on the music put there by the presence or direction of whoever the leader might be… There are a number of bass-led bands out there, playing some very interesting music; not everybody wants to hear a whole lot of bass… but in my band the leader is essentially a sideman – I’m more of the “sideman-in-chief” in my band, although because I do pick the program, personnel, and count off the tempos, it is my band, without a doubt… Except, in my band, I’m there to drive whoever has the spotlight at the moment. The band is powered from the bottom up, and the understanding is that the singer will sing the living daylights out of the song, and then the soloist will go on and PLAY. We also do a fair number of collective improvisations on the forms. The songs drive the band more than anything else.

JazzReview:  Who are some bandleaders that you have admired and learned from?

Burr:  I mentioned Mingus before as an inspiration for a bassist/composer – led band. Of the people I worked with, those who I admired the most as bandleaders include Stephane Grappelli, who was an egalitarian, the first among equals in his band; Roland Hanna, who had a bit of Mingus in him, challenging his sidemen musically to go on and PLAY. The bandleader I learned the most from was Horace Silver; although Roland Hanna was also a composer, Horace is a bandleader who plays his own music exclusively, and his expectations of his bass player were very formative for me.

JazzReview:   Do you have plans to perform anywhere live this summer?  If so, where and if not, where would you like to play?

Burr:  One disadvantage of this project is that the ensemble is fairly large (five pieces plus two vocalists), and consequently would be expensive to tour, putting it out of reach for many smaller clubs. We would love to be able to play in festivals and arts centers; we have been making overtures in those directions. Given the state of the economy, the idea of touring this project is looking very challenging at the moment. It will take some time for awareness of this project to grow to the point that we will be a sure bet for presenters; original music can be a tough sell, even though this music is accessible, melodic, and “feels like standards,” according to the reviews ( we’ve been getting. We are ever hopeful…

JazzReview:  Do you feel that the Internet has changed the way that musicians are exposed to the public, and the way that the music industry does business today?  How have you found the Internet to be a resourceful tool to expose your music to others?

Burr:  I don’t think that there’s any question that the internet has changed the music business, and radically. It remains to be seen how the whole thing shakes out; many aspects of the old way of doing business have been flat-out destroyed. Retail shelf space is shrinking by double-digit percentages annually. It is possible for just about anybody to sell music online these days, and there are interesting means evolving for getting exposure. Keywording of music, that is affiliative exposure by keywords or other attributes, has always been effective; in jazz, the “formula” for upcoming artists had been to hire “names” for your project and record at least some standards; both of these are forms of “affiliative marketing.” Nowadays, the idea extends to themes and tributes, given the lack of resources and will for the business to invest in building “names” for emerging artists. They are “tributing” people who aren’t even dead yet these days! There are a number of interesting sites that offer opportunities for exposure via “keywording;” internet radio stations like and Pandora, and iTunes’ “genius” feature all offer these possibilities, affording the listener the ability to sift through millions of titles to find music that fits a particular set of criteria, e.g. “sounds like Sinatra meets Weather Report” that he might otherwise not have heard in former times.  One problematic development over recent years is the growing use of Arbitron by public radio. There was a time when the implied “contract” between radio and the listener was: “we, radio, will give you free music. In exchange, you have to listen to ads and allow us to expose you to new music.” Nowadays, jazz has become institutionalized and listener-driven. Stations are afraid of alienating their listeners, so are inclined to give them stuff that’s “proven.” It would be interesting for someone to do a doctoral thesis on the percentage of living versus dead artists getting played on jazz radio – with this prejudice throughout our culture toward the proven and the safe, it puts jazz in jeopardy of becoming the “music of the dead,” and discourages innovation and creative effort throughout our society.  As social media such as Facebook and Twitter gain in numbers, the possibilities for ever-growing networks and rapid dissemination of information become more and more promising. It’s possible now for an established act with tens of thousands of followers to update their fans on their every move – including new releases, etc – in real time with no marketing expenses to speak of. There’s great potential there.. It’s going to be very interesting to see what develops. I’m on twitter now – follow me at and let us keep you posted!

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Nice review by George Harris in Jazz Weekly

May 16, 2009

Jon Burr Band
Just Can’t Wait
jbQ cd and dvd
By George W. Harris

This cd/dvd combo features the steady bass of Jon Burr, who has played with such luminaries as Silver, Getz, Bennett, Baker and O’Day. This release emphasizes his work with singers, which on this disc include the black velvety Ty Stephens, original Transfer Laurel Massee and the smooth pop of Yaala Ballin and Hilary Kole. The tunes range from the good time shuffle of “Just Can’t Wait” (which features the bluesy Houston Person on tenor) to the late night film nourish “Rainbow Over Harlem” Kole is folksy with Bob Mintzer’s soprano on “Snowfall” and mixes with Masee’s rich voice on “Song Of the Broken Word. Stephens is a find, and is justifiably featur ed on the lion’s share of the tunes. All throughout, Burr provides leadership, guidance and a wide array of moods and grooves. The perfect example of servant/leadership. A find for vocal fans. 

Review in Jazz Improv (NY)!

May 2, 2009

Jon Burr Band

JUST CAN’T WAIT. jbQ Media. Just Can’t Wait, Please Tell Me, Been Here All Along, Snowfall, None of Them Is

You, Eden by the Sea, Song of a Broken Word, I Understand You’re Leaving Me, Rainbow over Harlem, Sea Breeze, Nobody Said It Was Easy, Another Kind Love, Dancing with a Stranger, It’s Only Love.

PERSONNEL: Jon Burr, bass, leader, composer, lyricist; Ty Stephens, Hilary Kole, Laurel Massé, Tyler Burr, Yaala Ballin, vocals; Houston Person, tenor saxophone; Joel Frahm, tenor & soprano saxophone; Mario Cruz, Bob Mintzer, Anat Cohen, saxophones; Dominick Farinacci, trumpet; John Hart, Yotam Silberstein, Howard Alden, guitar; Jon Davis, Loston Harris, Ted Rosenthal, piano; Anthony Pinciotti, Dave Gibson, drums. [Carlos Gomez, Percussion] [– ed.]

By Bill Donaldson


[Drum roll.] “Please give a warm welcome to…

The Jon Burr Band!”

In the unending spirit of delighting audiences through the act of performing music, Jon Burr’s band certainly succeeded in that endeavor at Birdland in December, 2007. That much is obvious from viewing the DVD that accompanies the Jon Burr Band’s release recordings from that evening, Just Can’t Wait. After his prepared introduction about the omnipresence iPods and the stylistic versatility of the members his recent band, Burr wastes no time in giving the Birdland audience its money’s worth—and more— by launching into a set consisting entirely of his own compositions. Appropriately enough, the songs are crowd-pleasers, relating to events of everyday life and helping listeners get happy and chase all the blues away through the band’s stimulus package of fun, even during the more pensive pieces like “Sea Breeze.”

Burr’s band consists of like-minded, swinging veterans like Houston Person and talent deserving much wider recognition like singer Ty Stephens. Indeed, Stephens is a major presence throughout Just Can’t Wait, even as other equally engaging singers like Hilary Kole, Yaala Ballin, Laurel Massé and Tyler Burr contribute to the celebration of Jon Burr’s music too. When groove occurs and finger-snapping breaks out, Stephens, winner of the 2006 Jazz Mobile Vocal Award, usually is the one holding the microphone. The Just Can’t Wait DVD provides but a glimpse of his talent. Stephens’ re-creation of Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher” is a not-to-be-missed treat.) Stephens presents a variety of moods established by Burr’s compositions. A calming ballad like “Rainbow over Harlem” displays Stephens’ right-on pitch and his internalization of the lyrics. Burr’s gorgeous solo on the same song allows him to improvise in melodic and insouciant fashion. However, all of the potential excitement of Burr’s group emerges on “None of Them Is You,” propelled by a “Killer Joe”-like vamp and Burr’s assured walking bass lines. After Stephens delivers the song’s concept of feminine uniqueness, the effectiveness of Burr’s guest musicians (on the CD recorded at Bennett Studios and not on the DVD of the live performance) becomes apparent when trumpeter Dominic Farinacci takes over after the first chorus, elevating the piece to a yet higher level of irresistibility.

Other top-notch musicians include Bob Mintzer on “I Understand You’re Leaving Me,” where, like Farinacci, he enhances the atmosphere of the song with not only his solo but also his colloquy with Stephens during the delivery of the distraught expression of loss. On “Eden by the Sea,” a lightly swinging composition, Ted Rosenthal accompanies Yaala Ballin as she brings life to Burr’s reminiscence about an ocean-side paradise he no doubt visited, as well as backing Burr’s daughter, Tyler, on “It’s Only Love,” sung with tender force. Anat Cohen and Howard Alden enhance the flow of Ballin’s description of a “Sea Breeze,” both with sinuous harmonic lines and understated solos evocative of Brazilian sambas. In addition, Burr features a group of exceptional musicians in the band that appeared at Birdland, as shown on the DVD, including Houston Person, John Frahm and John Hart. Person’s famous ability to interact with singers, as well as the twang of Hart’s playing, makes “Just Can’t Wait” a perfect opening number for the evening—and for the recordings.

Burr also recruited singers Hilary Kole and Laurel Massé as appropriate for some of his other songs. On “Snowfall,” Kole lightens the mood of the evening with upper-register long tones, supplemented by Mintzer’s or Frahm’s dulcet harmonic lines, suggesting radio-friendly ethereality and longing. Interpreting “Song of a Broken Word” in a broad range, starting at the lower end of her range and swooping upward during the bridge, Massé infuses the piece with tragic emotion while telling a story recalled by a song on the radio.

After a decades-long career as a bassist with some of the most well-known names in jazz, including Chet Baker and Stephane Grappelli, Jon Burr has stepped out to establish his own reputation as a composer, lyricist and band leader with recordings of his own music. Not only did Burr’s band keep the Birdland audience entertained, but also it provided additional exposure for a range of jazz talent in sync with Burr’s work.

Great Review in Bass Musician Magazine…

April 3, 2009

Bass CD Reviews

Jon Burr | “Just Can’t Wait”, 4/01/2009

Meet Reviewer Damian Erskine
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Jon Burr
“Just Can’t Wait”

This CD/Live DVD set is as elegant as they come. Jon Burr’s music and playing just oozes class. Having played with Tony Bennett for 5 years, Buddy Rich, Stephane Grappeli, Eartha Kitt, Rita Moreno and a host of others it’s no surprise that Jon is such a tasteful player. All original compositions are featured here and the phrase that comes to mind is new-standards. If Jon had been born 30 or 40 years earlier, there is little doubt in my mind that we would all be playing some of these tunes at jam sessions or as another flavor during the set. In my mind, Jon really embodies an era that seems to be slipping away and I found it really refreshing to find such strong and passionate presentation of his music. …and with class! You just don’t see that many young players presenting their music in such an elegant setting. Generally speaking, if guys around here are wearing a tie when they play, it means that someone is about to cut the cake or will be giving a presentation after the meal has been served. I kind of miss the days when musicians would dress like they really cared about what was happening and in respect to the art (Like Les McCann said to me the before first time I played with him, “oh yeah… make sure to show up looking like you give a _____!”).

Jon’s music may appeal to primarily a jazz crowd that prefers the standards to the more bombastic approach of many groups today, but I think there is a lot here for everyone who can appreciate a well crafted song expertly performed for you. The LIve at Birdland DVD is well worth the price of admission if you can just relax and enjoy watching some good music. review

March 8, 2009

Just Can’t Wait 
Jon Burr Band | jbQ Media (2009)


By Woodrow Wilkins  Discuss           

Bassist Jon Burr has spent many years supporting other artists. He brings a lot of that experience into Just Can’t Wait, a 14-song collection that reflects the artist’s obsession with love.Burr has toured and recorded with musicians such as Stan GetzChet BakerHorace Silver andStéphane Grappelli. Vocalists who have shared the stage or studio with him include Lainie Kazan, Rita Moreno and Eartha Kitt. The CD is paired with Live at Birdland, a DVD featuring many of the same songs during the CD’s release party. Burr is accompanied by a variable lineup of pianists, drummers, saxophonists and vocalists, including his daughter, Tyler Burr.

The title song features Ty Stephens on lead vocal, with Houston Personperforming a bright saxophone solo. The track is a swinging, pop-blues number. Loston Harris contributes a lively piano solo, and John Hart provides rhythm guitar.

For a change of pace, Yaala Ballin sings lead on the tropical ballad “Please Tell Me.” The song has a bit of a Miami Beach feel, aided largely by Joel Frahm‘s sultry sax and Anthony Pinciotti’s drum play.

Hilary Kole steps in for the elegant “Snowfall,” aided by Bob Mintzer on soprano sax. Kole’s voice is like a whispery flute. Hart and Pinciotti help add emphasis. Burr’s own play is a little more evident here. “Eden by the Sea” again features Ballin on lead vocals, with Frahm on sax, Ted Leventhal on piano and Pinciotti on drums. Frahm’s tenor is rich during his solo.

Burr wrote all 14 tracks. Some were recorded as instrumentals, but all share the common denominator of having lyrics written to reflect Burr’s experience of being in love with a woman who was committed to someone else. The songs are all moving, and strike a pleasing balance of vocal with instrumental. The styles vary from straight jazz to blues to pop and even country.

Jon Burr Band at All About Jazz
Visit Jon Burr Band on the web.
Track listing: Just Can’t Wait; Please Tell Me; Been Here All Along; Snowfall; None of Them Is You; Eden by the Sea; Song of a Broken Word; I Understand You’re Leaving Me; Rainbow Over Harlem; Sea Breeze; Nobody Said It Was Easy; Another Kind of Love; Dancing With a Stranger; It’s Only Love.

Personnel: John Burr: bass; Ty Stephens: vocal (1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 13); Houston Person: sax (1, 11); Loston Harris: piano (1, 3, 5, 9, 11, 13); John Hart: guitar (1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11-14); Dave Gibson: drums (1, 3, 5, 9, 11, 13); Yaala Ballin: vocal (2, 6, 10); Joel Frahm: sax (2, 6, 7, 13, 14); Jon Davis: piano (2, 4, 8, 10, 12); Anthony Pinciotti: drums (2, 4, 6-8, 10, 12, 14); Dominick Farinacci: trumpet (3, 5, 9); Mario Cruz: sax (3, 5); Hilary Kole: vocal (4, 12); Bob Mintzer: sax (4, 8); Ted Rosenthal: piano (6, 7, 14); Laurel Masse: vocal (7); Yotam Silberstein: guitar (7, 14); Anat Cohen: sax (10); Tyler Burr: vocal (14).

Style: Mainstream/Bop/Hard Bop/Cool 
Published: March 07, 2009

Reviews by musicians of the Jon Burr Band DVD

February 17, 2009
 Marvin Sparks at 3:45pm February 16
Awesome man!!!!
 Shaynee Rainbolt at 3:49pm February 16
Love it Jon! going to go get the CD now! 🙂
 Lainie Cooke at 4:25pm February 16
This was great!!! Great video. Great music. Great musicians. Can’t wait for an opportunity to see you all live. And yes, of course – buy that CD.
 Michele Ramo at 4:49pm February 16
Jon, GREAT stuff,…your Mastery of the Bass is impeccable…looking forward to play with you soon.
 Jon Burr at 5:09pm February 16
Wow, these are some nice comments! Thanks!
 Kathleen Gorman at 5:58pm February 16
Your CD is great Jon, wonderful original songs, like “Standards”, dynamite singers and musicians, especially the bass player, he really swings! Love the Birdland show DVD.
 Jon Burr at 6:08pm February 16
Thanks so much Kathleen – I think your work is great and I’m honored by your remarks. You’re the master of the new blues.. anybody who reads this.. go check out Kathleen Gorman!
 Laura Hull at 6:30pm February 16
 John Temmerman at 11:34pm February 16
great stuff, Jon! I’m a big fan of Joel and Houston, too.
 Bob Bowlby at 1:10am February 17
Yeah Jon. Wonderful man!
 Rick Brown at 9:56am February 17
There is a wonderful flow to your playing. Excellent!
 Karen Saunders at 11:06am February 17
So enjoyed it Jon…loved the videography,too and Ty really suits your music.—-where’d you find that incredible Bassist? You know, he reminds me of someone who’s played with me a lot through the years….He’s really done justice to your music! LOL!!! Wonderful…I hope I get an opportunity to see you perform soon.

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