THE IGUANA Wednesday, September 22nd -
Hosted by the lovely Dana Lorge & the energetic Richard Skipper, this weekly Variety Show continues to offer an array of talent from Opera, to Pop, to Showtunes, to Jazz and, this week, also from the West to the East Coast! Linda Kosut (see full review below); Nancy Tierney and Marilyn Cooney were all here from San Francisco and they repped the West Coast proudly. Nancy graced us with a beautifully sung Joni Mitchell tune and Marilyn was a double treat singing her own original songs. What a lovely voice and really good tunes.
The jazz folks that have been showing up on a regular basis were all very impressive: Melissa Hamilton & EJ Decker have great voices & a gal named Vicki Burns, who is new to me, literally blew me away with her clean vocals and her easy, seemingly "organic" scatting. She was unfussy and straight ahead vocals. Like Peggy Lee, she swung hard but cool.
Vicki Burns: Press
Live at Anna's Jazz Island
Vicki Burns | Self Produced (2008)
By JEFF WINBUSH
Published: January 7, 2010
Jeff Winbush is a freelance writer and columnist hanging out in Columbus, Ohio. More about Jeff.
Track Listing: 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 Blues; Darn That Dream; Deed I Do.
Personnel: Vicki Burns: vocals; John Nichols: guitar; Sam Bevan: bass; Smith Dobson: drums; Nika Rejto: flute (8); Mary Ellen Donald: Arabic tambourine (2); Adam Blankman: vocals (4).
Is it possible to love jazz and not possess the restless spirit of discovery? Probably not. Jazz is a restless art forum and, while it respects it's rich and varied history, it always welcomes talented young bloods to renew and replenish the pool of talent.
Vicki Burns isn't a widely known jazz singer—yet. Some honcho at a record label needs to download Live at Anna's Jazz Island—currently only available as a digital download—and lock her up to a contract. Burns has been plugging away in the Bay Area of San Francisco, delighting audiences and building a reputation as a refined vocalist.
The choice of material is all standards, but Burns delivers the goods with her rich and dynamic voice. The setting is Anna's Jazz Island, a nightclub holding up the tradition of live jazz, and it's an environment where Burns shines, backed by her trio and a few guest musicians. Burns cites Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney among her influences, but she's no pallid imitator. Her phrasing and knowledge of how to approach a song with tasteful restraint are impeccable. She could teach a thing or two to American Idol aspirants in how to build to a bravura finish.
Burns is no one-trick pony either. On Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago" and Billie Holiday's "Billie's Blues," she demonstrates that a white girl from Maine can bring the sassy blues mama attitude when she's got a mind to be one. Burns is equally at ease when the mood calls for her to be sophisticated, sleek and suave ("You Don't Know Me," "All or Nothing at All," "Darn That Dream"). Her scatting isn't bad either, as she gives as good as she gets in a duet with guest vocalist Adam Blankman on "Bille's Bounce."
If there's any complaint to be made about Live at Anna's Jazz Island, it's that Burns' band is serviceable if not remarkable. Guitarist John Nichols and bassist Sam Bevan, in particular, have several bright moments, but Burns is ready to take the next step up in musicians to accompany her.
Vicki Burns is poised to break out to wider recognition as the next decade begins. She lives up to her surname; she burns the mutha out.
Artist Interview by: Donna Kimura
Jazz Photo - Link to Website
November 2008 -
Vicki Burns� new release, Live at Anna�s Jazz Island, tells a lot about her both musically and personally.
Instead of the traditional hard CD format, it is primarily a digital release that serves multiple purposes. First, it gets Burns� music, a rich blend of jazz genres, out into the world. The digital format, however, serves to cut down on the packaging costs, a critical consideration for most musicians. It is also an important �green� move for the environmentally conscious singer.
�I�m a strong environmentalist,� says Burns, who has studied Tibetan Buddhism. �There�s a lot of plastic in the world. I wanted to cut down on that.�
The recording was made over two nights, Feb. 2, 2007, and May 16, 2008, at the Berkeley, Calif., club, where Burns has regularly performed. She is backed by John Nichols on guitar, Sam Bevan on upright bass, and Smith Dobson V on drums.
�I really wanted to document what I have been doing for the last five or 10 years,� Burns says.
The recording features bop, blues, and ballads. Much of the music on the recording was spontaneous, and there�s a story behind each one. For example, Burns, who teaches voice, had some of her students in the audience. She performed �Sweet Home Chicago� to show them how to take an old blues song and make it your own.
A music legend was also unexpectedly in attendance on the first night that Burns recorded. Anna�s Jazz Island is owned by Anna de Leon, a well-known figure in Berkeley. In addition to being a club owner, de Leon has been a lawyer and a singer. She also used to be married to Taj Mahal. Mahal had come by the club that afternoon, prompting an invitation from Burns to stay for the show. He politely declined, saying that he was leaving for a trip the next morning and had to get up early.
Mahal, however, came back for the second set, sitting down right in front of the stage while Burns was performing �You Don�t Know Me.�
�We were having a good night anyway, but at that point everybody�s attention in the band shot up about a thousand notches,� says Burns. �We really became ultra focused. It was really fun. He loved it and gave us a wonderful response afterwards and then stayed for the entire night.�
At the end of the evening, a waitress had a message for Burns, who was starting to catch a cold. �She said, �Taj wants you to know that he didn�t just leave. He went to go get you something for your throat,�� recalls Burns. He brought back heavy-duty, natural cough drops for the singer.
De Leon as been one of Burns� biggest supporters over the years. �If it hadn�t been for Anna, I might have just given up,� she says, explaining that de Leon has consistently booked her to perform.
Other tunes on the recording include the bossa swing �All or Nothing at All,� �Billie�s Blues,� which captures a traditional blues feel, and �Darn that Dream,� one of Burns� favorite ballads.
With only two ballads on the new release, the singer says she put all her �ballad energy� into that song.
Burns sees a strong link between singing and acting. �It�s important for me as a singer to watch actors. In order to be a really great singer you have to be a good actress,� she says, citing Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney among her influences.
After spending about 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Burns is about to make a big change. She plans to relocate to the East Coast, but before leaving she has several performances scheduled in the area in November and December. Burns also has a landmark date set, with her New York debut Feb. 8, 2009, at the Washington Square Hotel.
In another move, Burns is also recording a studio album with pianist and arranger Cesar Cancino.
Relocating to the East Coast will bring Burns closer to her family. Her parents live in Maine, where she grew up. The singer also admits that there just aren�t that many place to perform in the Bay Area. She estimates that four venues where she has performed over the years have closed in the last several months.
She is ready to move on and win over a new group of fans.
Featured Artist: Vicki Burns
Jazz CD cover CD Title: Live at Anna�s Jazz Island
Record Label: Self
Style: Jazz Vocals
Musicians: Vicki Burns (vocals)
Some cuts of jazz can be so smooth and wielding, with unadulterated cool, the spin could be deemed illicit. That said Vickie Burns Live at Anna�s Jazz Island should be prosecuted for excessive, yet joyous, jazz exploitation. Commencing with Ms. Burns' scat allure, to her blues demeanor, this classic jazz perspective soars!
Live at Anna�s Jazz Island is a penetrating slice of jazz with an eclectic nature. The mixture comes from all directions, the music behind the vocals is precis, and in synch with the vocal tempos designed. The venture is a fine example of the classic genre and the deserving respect earned.
Blues gained an innovative perspective with Ms Burns feel of �Sweet Home Chicago,� as her emotional execution of the blues mentality stimulates in a fascinating fashion. John Nichols' strings are fine-tuned to the Burns tonality, which guides her lyrical efforts along with a passionate, ushered in swagger.
Ms. Burns is a serious and driven entertainer, easily understood in her vocal execution and diverse sway. Burns, an assured vocalist, is consistent and technical, partnered with a cast of ever-evolving craftsmen in studio with her.
Adam Blankman and Burns ignite this studio session with a fervid and �Left of the Label� scat duet, which swings by the name of �Billies Bounce.� Note the fine bass thump of Sam Bevan, who keeps the two scatters as tame and focused as he can. This conversation in scat is a classic jazz negotiation between two interpretations.
Live at Anna�s Jazz Island is void of a stray cut. Each spin has a personality praiseworthy of mention. More so, the effort justifies numerous hours of push-n-play. Ms. Burn�s vocals are without hesitation, a decadent jazz aphrodisiac!
Polkadots and Moonbeams, Meditation, Sweet Home Chicago, Billie's Bounce, No More Blue,s You Don't Know Me, Honeysuckle, All Or Nothing At All, Billie's Blues, Darn That Dream, Deed I Do
Reviewed by: Karl Stober
Featured Artist: Vicki Burns
CD Title: Siren Song
Record Label: Merrymaid Productions
Style: Jazz Vocals
Musicians: Vicki Burns, vocals. Leonard Thompson, piano. John Wiitala, bass. Steve Robertson, drums. Kenny Brooks, saxophones. Dave Allen, trumpet.
Review: Interested in some classy, stylish jazz vocals? Please allow me to introduce you to Vicki Burns on her debut CD, SIREN SONG. Vicki Burns has class, style, and polish that comes across in her vocals.
This collection has eleven songs. Among the songs are "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "How Am I To Know?," "Autumn Leaves," "Siren Song," "I Got It Bad," "You Are My Sunshine," and "Witchcraft." "Here's Looking At You" and "Witchcraft" are two of the many fine songs in this collection.
For a debut CD collection, SIREN SONG gives the listening audience topnotch performances from all concerned. Vicki Burns is a knockout with her beautiful vocals, and phrasing. The musicians with her are excellent. Leonard Thompson is tops on his piano stylings.
Each musician gives great solo performances. Dave Allen on trumpet gives some fine, impressionistic solo work.
This is a fine collection. Flawless production values. Highly recommended.
Artist's Website: http://www.vickiburns.com
Reviewed by: Lee Prosser
CD Reviews: Vicki Burns Quartet..Live At Anna's Jazz Island 2008
Reviews By John Gilbert
Vicki Burns vocals, John Nichols on guitar, Sam Bevan on bass, Smith
Dobson V on drums. Special guests: Mary Ellen Donald on Arabic
Tambourine, Nika Rejto on flute and Adam Blankman on vocals
Vicki Burns does indeed 'burn' on this recording. The stars were aligned
just right when she was blessed with a singing voice that was made for
the jazz idiom.
"Sweet Home Chicago" Burns shows some range on this blues tune as she
swings it to the max. A cool guitar solo has a heavy mesage coupled with
a facile rendering.
"Billies Bounce" This number gets off the ground and into orbit with
Burns and Adam Blankman scatting in unison. Burns, in scatting the
changes takes no prisoners. Everybody has a helping (as Pres would say)
on the four bar exchanges with Miss Burns leading the way with superb
ideation. This tune is the highlight of the album. The tempo is as fast
as a knife fight in a phone booth with Burns emerging as the winner.
"Honeysuckle Rose" / "Scrapple From The Apple" Now hear this, Burns is
in top form with her smokier than a speakeasy, leave no meat on the bone
interpretation of 'Honeysuckle Rose' followed by a hipper than hip
'Scrapple' that Bird himself would approve of.
"Darn That Dream" Vicki Burns has an evocative side and it shines
through on this ballad with a clear as crystal vocal.
An unusual tempo only makes this song work as cool as a South Beach
Nichols guitar solo is a gem and the vocal is pure magic.
"Deed I Do" is the last tune on this album but it ranks up there with
the best of the best on this disc. John Nichols has some quotes that
will bing a smile, "Way down yonder in the land of cotton" being one.
Did I dig this tune ?..Deed I Did.
Viki Burns brings her 'A' game to every performance and studio session.
She has a range as vast as the King Ranch and the ability to scat as
well as any of her peers.
To hear all 11 tunes on this disc and to purchase one, go to
http://www.vickiburnjazz.com or http://www.myspace.com/vickiburnsjazz
Friday, April 6, 2012
Vicki Burns Live At Anna's Jazz Island 2009
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.
Writing about the 2011 Vocal Jazz Festival at the Iridium Jazz Club: "Among the fabulous females is one of the most coolly competent -- or just plain cool --- jazz singers I have heard so far this year: Vicki Burns, from the West Coast. She has a clean sound and a great technique that’s pretty dazzling."
Gone Today, Here Tomorrow by Katie Bull
Why is it that when a jazz vocalist performs a tribute to a vocal jazz icon some ask, “Are they just doing a sound-alike night or will they innovate?” When an instrumentalist performs a tribute to a ‘Great’, it is assumed they will bring their own artistry to the act of honoring legacy. So the above question reveals a different set of assumptions for jazz vocalists.
This month we have the opportunity to hear singers offer tributes to those who are no longer with us. Consider the singers’ individual styles and energies in the context of varying approaches and you will find the tribute that excites your listening sensibilities. As part of Flushing Town Hall’s Celebrating Women In Jazz series, Antoinette Montague will channel Nina Simone, Alberta Hunter, Sarah Vaughan, Bessie Smith and Etta Jones in A Tribute to the Ladies Who Swing (Apr. 6th). Montague is a bluesy swingwarrior. Like a tributary, her stream of energy connects with the rivers of the women she respects, yet she is her own voice.
Seasoned and truthfully cool, Vicki Burns will pay tribute to Anita O’Day at Metropolitan Room (Apr. 23rd). Burns’ voice is a resonant blend of bright upper tones and warm chest sounds and her supple phrasing and timbre are uncannily similar to O’Day’s. Burns lilts, slides and scats percussively, invoking O’Day but maintaining her own identity.
The first definition of the word “tribute” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is not in reference to a performance or oratory method of honoring; instead it is a tax paid to display submission and to obtain protection by those in power. Run to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room to hear cabaret great Michael Feinstein ‘pay’ Ellington his due in Elegant Ellington (Apr. 24th-25th). Feinstein’s voice paints pictures of the Duke’s world, evoking shiny brass instruments in motion, crisp tuxedos and winged gowns. It’s interesting to note what Feinstein has acknowledged in past interviews: “While some things are set, we let it be changeable.” Sometimes a concept about genres is the tribute. Miles Griffith and Carolyn Leonhart are both featured in drummer Tommy Campbell’s Vocal-Eyes group, where the idea is to fuse traditional, ethnic, contemporary and progressive jazz. Boy, does he have the right singers for that approach. When Griffith blasts off the stage, there is no telling where he might go.
The entire spectrum of sonic communication, from primordial to traditional to alien and back again, is at this man’s vocal beck and call. Interwoven is Leonhart’s energetically calm and beautifully sensual voice. Vocal-Eyes is a tribute to the art of song itself. Hear the band at Smoke (Apr. 17th). A way of life can be honored in tribute. Don’t Cry for No Hipster (Nardis), from singer/keyboardist Ben Sidran, is an entertaining album featuring 12 original songs celebrating the hipster way. In his liner notes Sidran quotes theater improvisation legend Del Close: “The hipster has the Taoist’s aversion to pinning down the changing world.” Sidran’s album sates his curiosity about the changing hipster culture - he’s one of the artists who helped create it. Enjoy Sidran “hooglin’” at Jazz Standard (Apr. 24th).
CD releases falling into the tribute realm this month include Giacomo Gates’ wonderful Miles Tones: Giacomo Gates Sings Miles Davis (Savant). Gates is completely in the Davis pocket on this album. Singing vocalese in warm, husky long tones that are weighty, he leaves plenty of space. Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix is the highlight of Gates’ seamlessly connected sextet. Finally, Stephanie Jordan’s cohesive album The Stephanie Jordan Big Band: Yesterday When I Was Young (A Tribute to Lena Horne) (Vige) is a straightahead knockout. Since surviving Hurricane Katrina, Jordan picked herself up and this album unites her with Horne’s kindred steadfast spirit. The music is a tribute to persistence, a quality Jordan’s voice embodies. Whether inspired by the invocation or innovation impulse, good tributes say seize the day - with gratitude. While gone today, jazz greats live on tomorrow through their legacies. Looking back intribute, the artist pays it forward.