Brett Burleson – “Songs For My Friends”

Accomplished Columbus-based guitarist and educator Brett Burleson recently released his debut album, Songs For My Friends, on Scioto Records. Recorded by Keith Hanlon at Musicol Recording Studio, produced and mixed by Burleson and Hanlon, and mastered by Lisa Bella Donna, this local-made product reaches far beyond its environs to present a kaleidoscopic range of modern jazz trio and quartet sounds. The album can be sampled and purchased in CD and digital formats from Scioto Records here, and is also available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Amazon and more. Burleson is working to book more shows for the band that recorded the album, but in the meantime, you can see him play standards and some of his originals for Happy Hour at Rambling House on Friday, May 26th at 6pm, as well as guitar duo tunes with fellow master Stan Smith at Barcelona on Sunday, May 28th at 6pm. Future shows include two Sundays a month (at 8pm) in drummer Wally Mitchel’s band for Mitchel’s weekly gig at Dick’s Den. Keep reading for my thoughts on the album and video of an album track.

This appropriately-titled collection of tributes to friends and collaborators features Burleson on guitar, electric bass, and keyboard joined by bandmates Ryan Jewell (drums), Eddie Bayard (tenor saxophone), and Roger Hines (acoustic bass). “Song for D.W.” is an excellent choice for an opener, with Burleson’s even guitar tone feeling like it’s cutting through the haze of a new day. The pace picks up on “Mac’s Line,” and Bayard’s echoing of Burleson’s melody over the tight rhythm section, followed by fittingly energetic solos by the pair, form a soulfully cohesive whole. The weaving and wandering guitar and bass lines of “The Hypnotides” honor Burleson’s surf rock band in a duly mesmerizing fashion. The quartet returns on “F.S.,” and the laidback groove is spiced by Jewell’s fiery fills before his clicks lead to an abstract second section. Burleson Band favorite “33” builds drama with a subdued determination, and Hines’ warm bass anchoring the proceedings is a large element of that restrained momentum. The off-kilter free funk of “Song for Kidd” pays homage to saxophone legend Kidd Jordan with a spirited combination of groove and spontaneity, and Burleson and Bayard especially get in the mood with untethered bursts of melody. Burleson, Hines and Jewell bring the album to a peaceful conclusion on the sunny “On The Social Contract,” but as always, the musicianship of the players lends an intriguing depth to the sound.

Songs For My Friends is highly recommended for local jazz fans, especially modern jazz guitar in a variety of settings. Revisit an earlier recording of “33” from Burleson’s Mug & Brush Session:

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