Very Good Year (Jon Burr Quintet) is a jazz record.
(available only and exclusively on this website!)
Drawing from the jazz tradition, influenced by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Quincy Jones, Elvin Jones, Charlie Mingus, Horace Silver, and Art Blakey, this record is post-bop modern jazz.
Many of the compositions are based on the chord schemes of well known jazz standards.
Jon Burr’s tunes “All The Things You Ate,” “Cherry Keys,” “Savoy Fare,” and “Out of This Word” are titled closely enough to reveal their harmonic sources, as is Mike Eckroth’s “Always Let Me Go.” After many years of playing these progressions, the members had developed their own fresh insights into the harmony, creating music that is at once traditional yet revolutionary.
Writng alternative melodies to popular song progressions is deeply rooted in jazz tradition. The band’s modifications in harmonic scheme – such as occasionally putting the seventh of the chord in the bass – make the progression of the chords hard to recognize at times, even to the cognoscenti.
The “cover” songs are Jon’s arrangements of more popular songs that fit within the overall feeling of the group’s music. The gritty directness of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t Worry About A Thing,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” and Ervin Drake’s “It Was A Very Good Year” lent themselves well to the playlist. The other originals without obvious pedigree are two blues-form based tunes, one of them Jon’s “Break Out The Blues” and Steven Frieder’s “Fried Blues.” Tim Ouimette’s contribution “Perowsky Line” was an assignment for a composition lesson with tenor saxist/arranger Frank Perowsky, known for his compositions for the Buddy Rich band, his own big band, and numerous arranging projects. Frank had instructed Tim to write focused on melody, more than the chords, which Tim did beautifully, as evidenced by this tune.
Jon, Tim and Mike had originally scheduled this as a trio date to document their association as a working trio, having done dozens of dates together as the Jon Burr Trio, particularly at the now-defunct Tribeca speakeasy Silver Lining. Their point of view evolved from these performances, finding their greatest freedom of expression within the confines of jazz standards. The objective was a “blowing date,” just to document some of the music they had been coming up with.
When the opportunity to record finally presented itself, it occurred to Jon to write some “heads” for some of the tunes they particularly enjoyed blowing on, and to invite Steven and drummer Jerome Jennings to come play on the date, with a “lets see what happens” spirit. As the date approached, Jon started writing in earnest, drawing from the trio’s prior work as well as his own experience writing for his own big band and other projects over the years, as well as his experience as a member of the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop.
Jon had heard Steven Frieder play at the Turning Point jam sessions in Piermont, NY. Appearing to be half his 22 years but with lady-killer looks, Steven plays with a wisdom, fluency and humility that could be taken as proof of reincarnation. He blended immediately and completely into the trio’s concept. Jerome and Jon had recorded together with Houston Person (“The Art and Soul of…”) and numerous other gigs around NYC, always locking up and having fun as a rhythm team. Jerome proved to be a colossal and explosive while humorous and subtle talent when unleashed in the context of a jazz blowing date, and his contribution to the sound of the band is immense and cannot be overstated.
The recording session was one of those unforgettable occasions when synergy kicks in and the whole is suddenly much greater than the sum of the parts. Magic started to happen in the studio, the band was incredibly compatible, and fifth member and studio host John Kilgore, a huge fan of the genre with long experience as an engineer for Vanguard Records, WRVR Radio and others, kept the fires burning with focused encouragement, insightful comments and seamless engineering work.
Special thanks goes to Koko Sugiyama for her photography, album cover design, and assistance with production and music preparation!