A schooled musician, graduating from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Scott Burns spent a good portion of his early career in the Cincinnati/Dayton, Ohio area, learning his craft. In 1998, he moved to Chicago, a natural and ideal location for some of the best jazz artists in the world, who can be found in Chicago dating back to nearly the beginning of the jazz age.
Scott has done what all the best artists in jazz do: paid his dues. He has worked with the finest of people in Chicago, like Bill Russo, and probably with some of the not always-the-finest people too. Hey, we all have to do it if we want to get known and earn a living.
Which brings me to Scott Burn's new CD: PASSAGES. The text and photographic material for the cover is a bit sparse, but an abundance of further textual information can be found on his web site, listed above.
The CD begins with a hard bop out-of-the-gate fast tune called "Lead the Way," the first of eight original tunes arranged for this superb quartet of musicians. You need no more than listen to the opening chorus to know the quality of the ensemble's tightly arranged tune.
In the distant past, musicians could get away with less technique as long as they had great ideas. Unfortunately, many musicians in the present day think that technique equals creativity. The musicians in this quartet, however, although demonstrating the finest of schooled technique, use it solely to enhance their creative thinking and never as an end in itself. You can't get better than that.
The pacing is exactly right. The opening tune, "Lead the Way," is fast and hard driving, but is followed by a complete change of rhythm for the second tune, into a latin-fusion feel called "Seascape," with an especially worthwhile solo by pianist Ron Perrillo. After which comes the ethereal, elegant dynamically soft ballad, "Black Orchid," the third of Scott's eight exquisitely arranged tunes.
With another great change of pace, we begin tune number four, a swing-shuffle feeling piece Scott calls "Downhill Stroll." Its rhythmic style mirrors the title, an energetic yet comfortable stroll at a medium tempo. "Switchback," "Waiting," "Storm Rising," and "Eddies In The Stream" complete this superb presentation of the best in small group jazz performance.
I get very frustrated when I hear a great jazz group live in a jazz club. If they are as good as this group, I will have an overwhelming urge to jump up on stage and play with them, to experience the joy and freedom allowed by so competent a rhythm section. Creative players are so often handicapped by the inabilities of the other players, as happens in situations when you don't know who you are going to be stuck with, and then, sadly, you find out when you get to the job.
On this CD, you immediately hear that Scott Burns and his rhythm section are empathetic to each other in style and inventiveness. By default, they help each other reach the highest imaginations of the creative process. You can't get better than that. That's what being a professional is all about. The people, tunes, and the recording of this CD are a delight to experience.