From Earshot Magazine MARCH 2009
Ryan Burns Trio
Live at the Lab
Odd Bird Records ODD002
Recorded live at the Seattle Drum School L.A.B. in October 2007, Live at the Lab has a warm, intimate feel, similar to the albums that Bill Evans made at the Village Vanguard. Every nu- ance is audible, whether it’s pianist Ryan Burns’s impeccable touch, in which each note in his single-note lines has a shape of its own, the lingering resonance of bassist Jeff Johnson’s plucked notes, or the clean attack and crystal clear ring- ing of drummer Tad Britton’s cymbals.
The album’s six tracks are highly varied and include Cole Porter’s “All of You,” Peter Erskine’s “The Lady in the Lake,” and Wayne Shorter’s “Foot- prints.” Other groups try to prove their funkiness by brutalizing the funk out of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Not so here. Joe Zawinul’s classic is inherently funky, and it takes mature musicians to realize this and to let the funk grow organically. The trio does just this, and by its end, “Mercy’s” funk is in full bloom. The album also includes a divine interpretation of Ornette Cole- man’s “Lonely Woman.” Whereas the woman in Coleman’s original is bold, searing, and sultry, Burns’s woman is quiet, demure, and mysterious. As she paces up and down his keyboard her tiny feet place notes on the listener’s ears as soft raindrops place themselves upon a still pond. But it’s not all subdued introspection, as Johnson and Britton supply some of the urgency and energy present in the original with surging lines, rumblings, and strong attacks that drive the music forward. The dichotomy between Burns and his peers creates a unique and engaging take on this gem.
Live at the Lab is an excellent album that grows on me more with each listen. The group is highly cohesive, and its style and approach remains consistent throughout this stylistically diverse set. For those who appreciate an excellently recorded and mastered album, listen to this. For those who appreciate a group with a fully realized identity, listen to this. For those who appreciate creative music that has one foot firmly rooted in tradition while the other steps forward, buy this album out of sheer principle.
– Chris Robinson