Fly Over

by Sam Burckhardt

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“Fly Over” Press Release 2015

A dark room, candles on tables, cocktails in hands, smoke wafting through the air and a charismatic saxophone player on stage. Sam Burckhardt's music is born of another time, but the classic sound is contemporary enough to have a surprising, unpredictable life of its own, even decades after the bandleader got his start.

The Sam Burckhardt Combo officially began in 1999, and while its rotating lineup has fluctuated from a duo to nonet size, it has always been Burckhardt's boundless imagination and deft original compositions that have defined it. The group's latest album, Fly Over, is a beautiful encapsulation of the classic essence of jazz. Burckhardt's saxophone sings mournfully on a stripped-down version of the Count Basie classic "Blue and Sentimental," laughingly trades bars with organist Pete Benson on the original "Bird Watching," and spins clever turns of phrase opposite noted Chicago guitarist Joel Paterson on Tiny Grimes' raucous "Rock The House." The album's title track sees Burckhardt staying out of the way until two-thirds of the way through, letting his band take the limelight. Paterson's rhythm section of drummer Alex Hall and bassist Beau Sample--on hand throughout the recording--swing relentlessly, never missing the opportunity for a perfectly-placed accent while not for a second overplaying.

But perhaps the best place to approach the album is a rendition of Leroy Carr's "In The Evening," which features a rich, soulful vocal by Burckhardt backed only by a delicate acoustic guitar, until the rest of the combo slithers in. After trading bars for a bit, Burckhardt's voice regains the spotlight. "Oh, it's so hard to tell who will treat you the best / When the sun goes down," he laments, while the combo winds down behind him. As the final cymbal crash decays, you can imagine a voice in the room muttering, "That felt good," and it's impossible to disagree.

The Swiss-born Burckhardt played his first gig at the age of 14, sitting in on drums for blues pianist Eddie Boyd. In 1975, he accompanied blues legend Sunnyland Slim at two European concerts before moving to Chicago in 1982 to join Slim's band on saxophone. In 1994, Burckhardt was a founding member of the Mighty Blue Kings, heavyweights of the neo-swing revival movement, before helping to form the 10-piece jump-swing band The Big Swing. That wide background of influences is on clear display throughout Fly Over, from the occasional, unmistakably bluesy flourish to the sly, languid vocal. To celebrate its release, the Sam Burckhardt Combo will be performing at Chicago's legendary jazz club, the Green Mill, on September 4 and 5, bringing these songs, and a host of others, to vibrant life.

With tens of thousands of records sold and a lifetime of experience writing, arranging and composing under his belt, Burckhardt has always made the music he wants to make. But now, in 2015, with the trendy revivals long past and the dusky nightclubs once again his home, it's plain to see that Burckhardt is making the music--the sad, soulful, passionate, ecstatic music--he was born to make.


released August 1, 2015

Sam Burckhardt, tenor saxophone and vocals
Joel Paterson, guitar
Pete Benson, piano and Hammond B-3 organ
Beau Sample, bass
Alex Hall, drums



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Sam Burckhardt Chicago, Illinois

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