“You compose music with such warmth and sunshine - 'restorative' is the word that comes to mind.”
Review of album by Nick Lea - Jazz Views - February 2019
"Hilary Burt is a composer and arranger from Brighton who really deserves to be far better known, as this wonderful album testifies, and writes in a manner that is rapidly becoming instantly identifiable and refusing to be pigeon holed. She herself describes her music as 'jazz-folk', then confessing 'but even that doesn't fit many of my tunes'.
What is immediately evident however, is the fact that Hilary's roots are firmly with jazz and jazz harmony. Couple this with her skillful use of the instrumentation at her disposal and her instinctive and judicious use of the musical colours available, she creates a sound that is at once light and airy, yet full of subtle undertones. Try listening carefully with headphones, and one gets the full picture. Being able to hear in such detail (and without external distractions) the delights in the arrangements that reveal a complex musical logic that rewards repeated listening. The opening 'Sarah's Hour', originally written some twenty years ago, is immediately appealing with the flutes and saxes creating a delectable frontline for the catchy and memorable melody. This then sets the mood for the entire album: upbeat, optimistic and always rhythmically and melodically interesting.
The band are among some of the leading players on the South Coast scene, and bring this music together as a fine group that one hopes will be around for quite sometime. Burt's arrangement of Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi' is quite superb, as is the soprano playing of Becky Rork, whose tenor playing incidentally on 'Just Breathe' (if there is a single on the album, this is it) is also worthy of mention. Another cover featured is Lennon and McCartney's 'Eleanor Rigby' with the intriguing arrangement for piano and flutes, and intoxicating solo from altoist, Kate Hogg, but it is the original compositions that provide the most interest, demonstrating just how good Burt really is.
In her writing for Blue Calluna, Hilary is very much interested in song forms even in the instrumental pieces, and uses form structurally, as opposed to finding it a constraint to improvisation. This is an approach that gives the musicians ample room to take their turn in the spotlight (take a listen to Kate Hogg's bansuri flute solo on the title track) but never at the expense of the song being performed, and in doing so gives the music a wide appeal without compromise.
From her arrangements and compositions for Terry Pack's Trees ensemble on the excellent Heart Of Oak album, she has shown the same skilled approach to her craft in writing for a small group. It is therefore to be hoped that with this album, Hilary is not just a well kept secret but is able to present her music to a wider audience. A commission or two would certainly help, but in the meantime with this album she has certainly been able to step off and fly.
Reviewed by Nick Lea - Jazz Views
Comments by Lorraine Bowen - performer/songwriter
Hilary Burt - your Blue Calluna album is fantastic!
Listened at least three times doing a job here on a rainy day and it's taken my mind off grizzly politics and got me dreaming of better things. It's so musical, easy, well arranged and has great new unexpected sounds for the ears! The singer's part is lovely - really understated in a jazzy-Karen-Carpenter-kind-of-way with just that tiny bit of vibrato here and there - I love it!
The whole thing is a delight from beginning to end and I can hear the days, months, years of hard work and dedication by you writing those genius arrangements, getting the ideas together, getting the players together, rehearsing and recording.... what a milestone! I take my hat off to ya! Really well done!
Review of our gig at The Brunswick, September 9th 2018
Hilary Burt's Blue Calluna - The Brunswick, Hove - written by Andy Batkin
Occasionally you see something new, not Turner Prize new for the sake of new, but in-the-tradition new. Rhythms and harmonies you know and love; movingly, excitingly new. People seemed to know something was coming. The Sunday night jazz slot at The Brunswick on September 9th was rammed – not even standing room.
The draw was Hilary Burt’s launch gig for the songs and arrangements she’s been working on for over a year; for her whole life, some might say. She’d entrusted her creations to her new all-star 8-piece Blue Calluna, plus backing vocals, and they didn’t disappoint. Monday morning Facebook comments said: ‘mesmerised’, ‘unique’, ‘outstanding’, ‘total triumph’.
The songs were a mix of Hilary’s Big Band originals (Sarah’s Hour, Mojo, Golden Animation), now part of the Sussex Jazz Orchestra regular set. Lots more originals: Kestrel, dedicated to Simon D'souza, Ingrid’s Song, Step off and Fly, and gorgeous quirky re-imaginings of Eleanor Rigby (familiar to Trees’ fans), Big Yellow Taxi and Dublin’s Fair City.
So what made it new? First was the quality of the writing: accessible, catchy, lovely melodies, funky grooves. Second, the depth of arrangement. Instead of familiar big band scores and small group minimalist arrangement, when someone puts hours into inter-weaving eight voices into such rich, varied soundscapes, it feels, well… new.
And lots of solo space. Special mention must go to Steve Morgan – now up there with the very best; Beccy Rork – wonderful as ever; Lucy Pickering, joining Red Grey at the top of the spine-tingle league. And Kate Hogg, especially with her Bansuri flute. No, I didn’t know what it was either; find out: it’s the most beautiful thing. And all driven by the drums/percussion/guitar versatility of Alex Eberhard and Chris Stockel, and the ‘main man’ Dave Barnard on bass.
Oh yes: and when did you last see a band where the entire front-line is women and all the blokes are at the back in the engine-room? New or what?
The album Step Off and Fly will be launched at The Brunswick on Sunday Nov 25th 2018.
Review of the track "Step Off And Fly"
Step Off And Fly title track by Hilary Burt's Blue Calluna.