by Henry Ellison
Starring in two separate vocal performances of completely different styles might sound difficult for the average singer, but not for junior jazz voice major, Taylor Burgess. Pulling out a set of jazz standards in the afternoon, and a lively number of Alicia Keys covers the same night, was not out of the question for her.
On April 22, she managed to sing through both her junior recital in the music building, and play the last set of this semester’s Cover Show at the Stood. That evening she said, “Someone needs to help, because I’ve done a lot of singing today.” Still, she delivered a jazzed-up number of RnB tunes.
It was her third time headlining the semiannual concert in which students cover songs by famous artists. She covered Chaka Khan this past fall semester, and Beyoncé in the spring of 2016. She also played another gig at the Performing Arts Center on Sunday night, April 30, singing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for charity with a church group she works for during the holidays.
Burgess switched from an opera major to jazz voice in fall of 2016. She still studies opera as a minor.
“I had realized that the program at Purchase was not the right fit for me,” she said. “There were a lot of views that I did not agree with. And I knew that I wanted to still sing.” She is surrounded by serious players, and chooses musicians with whom she is familiar and comfortable collaborating. Drummer Jason Wastor joined her for both performances.
“She is such a versatile singer,” he said. “I mean both her classical and jazz skills are amazing and she makes you feel a strong sense of comfort on both rehearsal and performance.” The band did not have much time to practice either set, but spent most of their time together preparing for the recital. There are certain academic requirements Burgess had to fulfill with her recital, and she would be graded accordingly. “We basically had one solid rehearsal for each show,” said Wastor.
The recital began with Burgess joined by only a pianist, Ethan Brown Jones. They played a selection of compositions by Ricky Ian Gordon, adapted from the poetry of Langston Hughes. “I thought it would be perfect for the whole Black Lives Matter thing,” she said. The second half included renditions of “I Loves You, Porgy” by the Gershwin brothers and “Night and Day” by Cole Porter. A version of bossa nova tune, “Triste,” by Antonio Carlos Jobim was dedicated to Burgess’ newly-wed sister-in-law from Brazil. After, Taylor said, “Ironically speaking, the next song is ‘Never Will I Marry.’ It just happens to be a favorite.”
Her mother and father sat proudly in the front row, smiling and shaking their heads. The singer uses a wide vocal range and exerts an impressive and seamless command over the material. The recital ended with a standing ovation from those in attendance.
Guitarist Bertram Barnes joined Burgess onstage at the Stood for her Alicia Keys covers. He had played in the two previous sets, in which Bobby Woody and Demetrius McCray rapped songs by Outkast and Kendrick Lamar. The group played Lamar’s most recent single, “Humble.” He played along on pop hits including “Empire State of Mind,” “No One” and “If I Ain’t Got You.”
“I love her energy,” said Barnes. “The love she has for all her colleagues in the department, how she let me as a non-major interact and play and hang out. She treats me like family.” Students can expect to see Burgess play many more cover shows to come.