At least one jazz musician lucky enough to have the surname of Burns would have to be what's known as a musician's musician as well, seeing as how it is mostly musicians that like to compliment each other by shouting "You're burning!" In fact no better example might exist of this phenomenon than the trumpeter, composer, and educator Dave Burns. Starting with the trumpet, there exists a discography that would bar entry to a modest-sized home if stacked properly. Normally just the fact that Dizzy Gillespie was one of the bandleaders who hired Burns is enough to get the attention of an entire brass master class, a theme that will come up again in the next chorus.
As a composer, Burns has a nifty catalog of titles such as "Automation" and "Rigor Mortis," the kind of stuff that shows up like perfectly prepared hard-boiled eggs on hip hard bop sides. That scrumptious jazz genre is where the trumpeter spent a great deal time of working, beginning with his '40s affiliations with Dizzy Gillespie, whose big band must have also allowed Burns to become comfortable with the many possibilities of vocal jazz, as well. Many jazz listeners come across Burns in the context of such delightful collaborators as vocalist Eddie Jefferson and saxophonist James Moody, who often worked together. The trumpeter blows on classic tracks such as the Jefferson vocal version of Horace Silver's "Filthy McNasty"; with Moody he would often sew up loose blowing tracks such as on the appropriately titled"Jammin' With James."
Burns' decision to sign with the Vanguard label in the early '60s can, with hindsight, appear to have been the seal of doom. Or at least it began a process that inevitably led to the mainstream jazz audience associating the Burns' surname with the documentary filmmaker, not this genius of the bop era. Vanguard's reputation in the music business is of course superb, and includes an association with a variety of different styles of great interest -- just not hard bop. The pair of albums the label released of Burns in partnership with great players such as pianist Harold Mabern, tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell, and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson are absolutely the only examples of this type of jazz in the label's catalog, a fact that has sadly garnered more attention than the albums themselves.
While out of a certain type of limelight, Burns was the name that would continue to come up, as a typical example, when a brilliant trumpet player would be asked to suggest the best possible teacher by an extremely advanced student. Thus, Burns' name seems to be practically inscribed at every turn in the maze of actual jazz history, a series of complex historical relationships between students and teachers. Sometimes a critic scribbles something such as "unheralded but awesome" in reference to Burns. It can be hoped that these buzzes are strong enough to inspire Vanguard to reissue Dave Burns and Warming Up. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi