John Burgess:

So In Love

Byre Theatre, St Andrews

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Rob Adams

John Burgess's first tenor saxophone hero may have been Ben Webster but by the end of the second set here at the Byre Theatre's intimate studio and fine jazz club substitute, another saxophonist's aura was beginning to prevail, at least in the parts between tunes. Burgess has a similar world-weary wit to Ronnie Scott's in his spoken interludes and the late Soho jazz host would doubtless have shared a fondness for many of the players whose spirit Burgess evoked through his carefully chosen repertoire.

Not for Burgess, certainly in this guise, the tough roaring tenor approach in which he has held his own when required in the past. His So In Love quartet takes the "playing with the handbrake on" route from which fiddler Martin Hayes has made such artistic profit in Irish traditional music and while Burgess's team, with this debut performance, hasn't attained the ability slowly to mesmerise and gradually achieve exultation that Hayes has perfected, he has hit on an idea that sounds fresh and surprisingly varied when set against the speedy aggressiveness that proliferates elsewhere.

Webster's influence permeated Burgess's opening notes, bringing an immediately reassuring bluesiness that lasted through bossa nova, Beatles song (In My Life), a fine meditation on Neil Young's After The Goldrush, early jazz and gospel music and on into Stanley Turrentine's easy-grooving Mississippi City Strut.

In pianist Euan Stevenson, Burgess has an excellent, creative partner, not least on their duet of Angel Eyes, and as more gigs allow all four players to grow together it'll be interesting to hear just how deeply romantic their music becomes.