Though he has been a multi-faced independent force in the smooth jazz realm since his 2007 debut album Par For the Course, saxophonist Vann Burchfield has for the last two decades also been known for a unique earlier musical accomplishment.
Back in 2000, the Alabama bred artist caused a stir in the sax world by setting a new Guinness world record for circular breathing, holding one continuous note for 47 minutes, six seconds – surpassing the record of superstar Kenny G, who in 1997 set the previous mark, sustaining an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds.
From here on out, however, with the release of his six album, Burchfield should be known as the saxman who helped us get through this challenging anxiety filled pandemic era with a lyrical and funky, always grooving reminder to Keep Pressing On. The album title – which is consistent with the names of the majority of the of the tracks – says it all about his intention to offer us sparkling and soulful, rhythmically eclectic musical encouragement and optimism.
His infectious blend of sultry ballads, tight mid-tempo urban jazz-funk tunes and supercharged jams take us on a freewheeling journey that’s loaded with positive vibes but also, via tunes like the silky, meditative and romantic soprano driven “Long Ago” and the closing tracks “All Alone” and “Reflections of Long Ago.”
Burchfield uses the “encouragers” to take us on a colorful journey with touches of rock/blues/soul (“Stay Strong”), spirited slammin’ whimsy (the circular breathing infused “We Got This”), wildly soaring magic (“We Can Do This”), sly lower toned percussive cool (“Keep Pressing On”) and laid back, old school easy rhythm soul-jazz (“Change Is A Comin’”). On the simmering gospel/blues tinged “”I’m Holding On,” the saxman (playing at his most robust) also reminds us that for all the hope he imparts, we still have to be patient for all good things to return.
In a genre where titles are sometimes generic romantic afterthoughts, it’s great to see a collection created with such vision and purpose.