Ralph Burns

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Bijou Review

by Richard S. Ginell

Due no doubt to the amount of energy he expended as a composer and arranger in virtually every American mass culture medium, Ralph Burns' legacy as a pianist is extremely small. Therefore, this Leonard Feather-produced small-combo session for Period, divided originally into two ten-inch LPs, should give us some insight into the nuts-and-bolts of what made this arranger tick. As it turns out, these tracks, mostly set at relaxed tempos, reveal a modest man -- not a flashy virtuoso, not too anxious to swing (though he can), but mostly content to turn out languorous, complex voicings that occasionally veer toward the lounge. He is willing to experiment at times, dubbing in a second piano part on numbers like the sprightly "Sprang" and the contrapuntal "Perpetual Motion." On hand to help out are bassist Clyde Lombardi, drummer Osie Johnson, and guitarist Tal Farlow, who also takes a few elegantly turned solos. By far, the best track on the CD is Burns' rollicking, Latinized take on one of his most famous compositions, "Bijou," which has an irreverent change-of-key in the middle of the tune. This irresistible track alone makes this a worthwhile purchase for any fan of the many Woody Herman Herds.

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