Vicki Burns reached out to me and requested I give her 2009 Live at Anna's Jazz Island a test drive then share my thoughts with the world. Lately my mailbox is crammed full of releases from every female singer from all corners of the globe under the assumption that they know what pitch is and have a working knowledge of swing. Truth be told most could not find pitch with written instructions and snapping your fingers in rhythmic time to the tune is not exactly "swing." Long story short, my address was given and here we are.
I decided to kick off my sonic adventure (I often compare this gig to being a musical prospector) with the iconic "Sweet Home Chicago" from blues legend Robert Johnson. The translation this tune makes with some rather tasty jazz sensibilities is spot on. Burns nails this tune with an ensemble that understands the rudiments of swing. In short...everyone works and plays well together. Burns has a smooth full bodied voice with a nice silky finish, her swing goes down smooth. Jumping back to the opener it would be a crime against music to leave out a stellar rendition of "Polkadots And Moonbeams." An absolute favorite is "Billie's Bounce" and while frames of musical reference and inherently unfair there is an infectious Manhattan Transfer meets Anita O'Day vibe going on that is absolutely out of sight and especially with this a live recording. The guitarist and bassist and drummer bring it and swing hard! "You Don't Know Me" is more of a pop country classic co-written by the great Eddie Arnold and Burns has the chops and the phrasing to flip this to a jazz standard that lingers long after the last note. "Honeysuckle Rose"/"Scrapple From The Apple" is another crowd favorite. I shun the term "jazz critic" opting for "jazz advocate" and Vickie Burns is indeed the real deal.
Independent artists have it rough, especially in this the now Obama economy. Independent critics do not have the easiest of times either. Critics or jazz advocates answer to artists, labels, other publicists, other publications and the list goes on. Occasionally we run across the artist that mistakes our job as that of a publicist and should things not go to their liking they then try and seek some sort of cyber-vengeance simply due to their lack of knowledge of how the music business works - that and their total lack of talent. Why am I saying all this? Vicki Burns is one of the better vocalists I have heard in some time, a class act and if they stick the right to a major record deal in the U.S. Constitution then Burns should be first in line!
Tracks: Polkadots And Moonbeams; Meditation; Sweet Home Chicago; Billie's Bounce; No More Blues; You Don't Know Me; Honeysuckle Rose/Scrapple From The Apple; All Or Nothing At All; Billie's Bounce; Darn That Dream; Deed I Do.
Personnel: Vicki Burns: vocals; John Nichols: guitar; Sam Bevan: bass; Smith Dobson: drums.
Special Guests: Mary Ellen Donald, Nika Rejto, Adam Blankman.