Alison Burns & Martin Taylor: I:AM

Ms Burns has a clear, beautiful voice; guitarist Taylor is one of jazzdom’s rising stars; the 14 tracks include well-known pop tunes plus some standards and rare gems; yet the project will not appeal to jazz lovers. This, in spite of advanced promotion hailing Burns as “the number one Scottish jazz singer” and Taylor as “the finest British guitarist of his generation.” That’s only half the story.

Apparently Burns does not take her billing seriously, a fact underscored by her choice of material and her approach to the kind of jazz-flavored songs by which jazz singers are usually judged. “The Man That Got Away” is taken at too bright a tempo to allow her to show what she can do with “torch” material. “How Long Has This Been Going On?” receives the same matter-of-fact treatment. “I’m Confessin'” shows some promise: Alison gets downright intimate (or was there different miking involved?) Her vibrato sounds warmer, and it appears at times she’s trying to imitate Billie Holiday’s phrasing, but it still doesn’t assume the cachet of jazz vocalist. As for “Sophisticated Lady,” her range and intonation score high, but she sticks closely to the melody, seemingly reluctant to show inventiveness or take the risk of a jazz interpreter.

All in all, this UK duo (oh did I forget to tell you that’s all there is to the list of personnel?) just the bare-bones sound of voice and guitar: the moment of truth for a vocalist. No place to hide in a busy arrangement. So considering the pressure on her, Alison Burns did extremely well-but as a pop stylist.