Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Vicki Burns: Lotus Blossom Days (ViBu Jazz)

A review of the New York vocalist's first album in almost 15 years

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Vicki Burns: Lotus Blossom Days (ViBu Jazz)
The cover of Lotus Blossom Days by Vicki Burns

It’s been almost 15 years since the release of Vicki Burns’ last CD, and judging by Lotus Blossom Days, her third album, she’s been putting her time to good use. The New York vocalist hasn’t just documented a consistently interesting program delivered with rhythmic acuity and abundant imagination. She’s recorded an album that feels like it’s part of a larger conversation.

Her stellar band includes pianist Art Hirahara and bassist Sam Bevan, who both, like Burns, spent significant time on the Bay Area jazz scene. Veteran drummer Billy Drummond, an invaluable asset in any musical situation, minds the dynamic flow with abundant sensitivity, while half the tracks feature one or two horns. Working closely with Bevan, who co-produced the album and arranged eight of the album’s 12 tracks, Burns plugs into the jazz vocalist zeitgeist, a connection evident from the snappy first track, “If You Never Fall in Love with Me.” A Sam Jones tune, it took on new life in the early 1960s when Carmen McRae and Ernie Andrews recorded the song with Donald Wolf’s lyrics. Long obscure, it’s resurfaced in recent years with a vengeance, regularly performed by Samara Joy and Mark Christian Miller (who also used the song to kick off his new album Music in the Air).

Burns contributes two strong originals, including “Siren Song,” her 2005 debut album’s aptly titled title track. Effective at languorous tempos, she interprets three American Songbook classics with due deliberation, including Bernice Petkere’s “Close Your Eyes” and the Arlen/Mercer closer, “Out of This World.” But it’s her hat tips to fellow singers—like Tessa Souter’s alluring “You Don’t Have to Believe” and Carol Sloane and Roger Schore’s lyrics for Billy Strayhorn’s exquisite title track—that shine brightest. Burns’ work stands on its own, but she’s keeping some fine company. 

Learn more about Lotus Blossom Days on Amazon and Apple Music.

Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert is a Berkeley-based freelancer who has written about arts and culture since 1989 for numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and KQED’s California Report. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he experienced a series of mind-blowing epiphanies listening to jazz masters at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in the late 1980s, performances he remembers more vividly than the gigs he saw last month.