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Vann Burchfield – Lay Back

June 23, 2017

Along with being a super-talented veteran saxman, Vann Burchfield is certainly consistent. I first learned of him about 8 years ago when I sampled his Blue-Eyed Soul release and then reviewed it here. I was most impressed then and continue to be so. His handle on melody (a very big thing for me) is superb, and his compositions are always whole and soulful. His latest release, Lay Back, is a portrait in serenity. Its soothing musical caresses are consuming, even riveting on a couple of tracks.

The album has a lot of that swaying feel-good up-tempo/mid-tempo, often sensuous groove (“Morning Drive,” “It’s A New Day,” “Freedom,” “Being With You,” “Sunrise,” and “Friends”) and does not fall short on the softer, gentler, reflective side of things (e.g., the lead and title track, “Relax,” and the lovely “Peaceful Moments.”).

The already beautiful title track (my fave, by the way) also has a vocal version featuring the tender vocals of the saxman’s wife of 33 years, Teresa, giving this track a delicate feel like one might get with a mellow Paul Hardcastle/Jazzmasters song. Heavenly indeed.

This album’s approach is as substantive as its material, with Burchfield tailoring its appeal to both body and soul (a message of “Let’s dance; Then, let’s settle back and ponder or just drink in the day”). While his previous releases have all struck a somewhat similar balance, this one seems to emphasize the laid-back element more. In any case, Lay Back it does it all in the same fashion as his other releases — with melody and solid, serenading sax work.

Burchfield may be one of the quieter or less visible artists on the scene (a real injustice, in my opinion), but his music beckons and sings loud and clear.

As he says, “Music is an important part of all of our lives. The right song at the right time is priceless. As you listen to these songs, I hope you will be lifted up when you are down and, in times of stress, you will be able to Lay Back.” I say: Do that. You owe it to yourself. – Ronald Jackson