Thursday, March 15, 2007

Scott Burns: Passages

Origin Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 3.15.07
Buy CD: Passages

Scott Burns was born and raised in Ohio's Dayton/Cincinnati area. While still in school, he decided that music, jazz and the tenor sax would be major elements in his life. 

A chance to sit in during a 1996 concert tour by one of Clark Terry's bands — and encouragement he received at the time — were instrumental in Burns' decision to move to Chicago, where opportunities abounded. While attending DePaul University to expand his musical education, he worked with jazz groups and formed his own quartet. 

He received a Downbeat award in 1999, and by 2002 was playing with Connick's big band. Eventually, though, Burns returned to his own quartet. 

This is a standard group, with Burns on tenor sax, Ron Perrillo on piano, Dennis Carroll on bass, and George Fludas on drums/percussion. Burns composed all the tunes on this CD. Two of them, "Black Orchid" and "Waiting," are pretty ballads: perfect for slow dancing with a significant other. 

The rest of the tunes are mid- to up-tempo compositions, better suited for listening than dancing. 

A group that works in and around one area — Chicago, in this case — is known as a "territory" band. They're the bread and butter of the musical world and, because they aren't well known outside their own areas, most of the musicians have two jobs. The daytime jobs buy the groceries, pay the rent and support the family. 

At night, they turn into musicians to augment their basic income, get their kicks and (hopefully!) make their way up the musical ladder of success ... which then would allow them to quit those humdrum day jobs. 

This quartet is good: better than most living this kind of life. As you'd expect, the solo work is done primarily by Burns and Perrillo; both are excellent. The bassist and drummer are more than adequate. 

But, as is the case with most small combos, it's hard to prevent boredom from creeping in unless the group includes a rising superstar. That isn't the case yet, but these guys play pleasurable jazz: great background music while you're reading or hosting a gathering of friends.

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