Heavy set black man in a cap playing the saxophone with other guys in a band onstage

Brett Burlison.

Eddie Bayard.

Roger Hines.

Shane Willis.

Alex Burgoyne.


Folks, that is how you spell ‘beauty’ in this day and age of the Beast – those five jazz-men’s names.

And boy, did I soak up these marvelous jazz players’ collective and individual beauty at their last Wednesday night residency at Dick’s Den in June. I don't mean to be inarticulate, but you're going to hear a lot of the ‘b’ word in the next few hundred words.

From my notes:

First song, Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce – great opening energy...saxist Bayard firing on all valves, his weathered tenor bell blasting brash...Hines on a stool, his big ol’ violin-shaped double-bass layin’ in his lap like a French whore left over from the German occupation getting tickled high and low...Burlison chording color...Willis’s ticking, tapping and timing on the drums, cymbals and foot-pedal was precision itself...can precision be creative? Willis’s, yes.

By song’s end, I was smoking hot.

And that was just their first song!

Song #2, 33, a Burlison original and a contemplative piece...what I love about a great small jazz combo is how they can shift gears and not sag in terms of statement, which is not easy. The tune has an almost deceptively plaintive melody and Burlison can take credit for its musical maturity, for he is relatively young. But it's strength is in its four players collective maturity to handle its thoughtfulness. No beauty like slower beauty and the way the four were like super-super-slow-mo precision Thunderbirds flying wingtip to wingtip awed me.

My notes: ‘beauty destroys me on occasion.’ This tune had moved into exquisite territory.

Next song, another original, Mac’s Lime, again, not a slap in the face but a caress. Burlison can write some really attractive chord changes, Bayard blows hot and cool sustains and strings of brassy pearls that are rings and pretty things dancing on top of Burl’s smart architecture. If you’re looking for something negative from me, you’re not going to get it in this review. It's going to be as beautiful as Roger’s bass is to look at: shapely like a woman, gleaming strings vibrating on a long black neck, burnished brown like the cask of rum they pickled Nelson’s body in after the British admiral won the sea battle of Trafalgar.

An angelic Body and Soul, a totally artistic I’ll Remember April and a tireless Sonny Rollins-penned Oleo placed the quartet's first set into super-soul-restoration-and-rejuvenation space. By Crom I was feeling no beast, just a vibrational inner peace. Yay, jazzbos!

The second set was even better, at least twice as good and baby, that's saying something.

Burgoyne, a general on sax, joined the four and made it a feast of five. He had a remarkably noticeable fullness, doubling the warmth and depth. I’m telling you, this night should’ve been beamed to outer space to the Venture’s Tel-Star and Lou Reed and Mystery Science Theater’s Satellite of Love and even Cheeto’s Space Force and then shown to the four corners of the earth. Burlison’s quintet now joined the Seven Wonders of the World.

OK, lemme get right to it, dang it all to heck: the most beautiful song I've ever heard I heard that Wednesday night during the Burlison boys’ second set: Hypnotized.

Apparently left over from Hurly-Burly’s surf band days (the kid’s done everything; why, not long ago I saw him play a killer acoustic guitar set of samba music with Stan Smith at the Grandview Heights Public Library’s atrium – ridiculously good), Hypnotized was at least 10 minutes of the most incredibly wonderful Spaghetti Western-esque instrumental music...ever written by an American.

It was kind of circular themed, the song’s main refrain returning time and again, never wearing out its welcome. The five miraculous bad-asses going full Ennio-Morricone like they were each conceived during a collective viewing of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Honest to God, Burlison’s guitar line and the twin Siamese saxes of Bayard and Burgoyne were each joined at the soul, hauntingly evoking our majestic west's naturally windblown stone monuments. Painting with colors Michelangelo would’ve approved, these five horsemen recreated melodically evolution by wind. The music they played was equal to the Grand Canyon. This was unexpected beauty on a Wednesday night of a caliber so high I too am still high from its performance. This was what I live for.

Is there a better four- and then-five piece jazz band in this town? A town, I might add, laden to the ladle’s hilt with world-class jazz players. I’ve never been happier at Dick’s Den. Credit the bandleader. I’ve heard lots of fantastic jazz in this strangely jazz-underrated town. But Wednesday night, Burlison’s last evening of ‘residency’ at the heart-of-hearts of jazz bars, The Phenomenal Kid blew my mind, blew it backwards for five back-stretching somersaults. Jesus Christ, I was so limber after I left I knew I was back in love with breathing musical passion again.

Outside, the strawberry moon in the dark blue sky kept me company like a new-found love as I pedaled my ass home well after midnight. The Beast was going to have to wait ‘til dawn, I had had a one-night stand with Beauty and she was still in me, keeping me warm, making me glad to be alive.

Corny – but true, so help me Bird.

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