(for the reissue of the CD Blue Burton by Skip Voogd)
Much of one's character can be explained by origin, youth and upbringing. Ann Burton is no exception. Whoever looks further at the life and career of the Dutch singer and listens to the superb records she made will understand why her first album, and the book published in 1999 carry the significant title BLUE BURTON.
The youth of Johanna 'Ansje' Rafalowicz, born on march 4th , 1933 in Amsterdam is for a great part darkened by the second world war. She had to go into hiding because of her Jewish descent, not to get caught by the German occupiers. And in the years after the liberation of Holland the sun still won't shine in Ansje's life. She perpetually clashes with her mother, which eventually leads to her being taken under the wings of a social welfare worker. Her dawning love for music is not without consequence: she becomes a singer with a combo, goes abroad, and soon adopts as her stage name Ann Burton.
When she enters the small Amsterdam theatre 'Het Bavohuis' in the evening of September 24th 1967 to record the first session of her first album, Blue Burton she is 34 years old and has 12 years of experience as a singer. At that moment the Beatles lead the top 10 in Holland with "All you need is love"....
Since Ann Burton made the singing of the Doris Day repertoire her business the world of popular music has seen a lot of changes - in the beginning by the arrival of rock'n' roll, later by the beat. Just so the Ann Burton repertoire underwent the necessary changes during these years. The singer broadened her musical horizon very much after getting acquainted with the jazz. After listening to the way Billie Holiday, Sara Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald handle their songs she started to put much more emotion into the interpretation of her lyrics, and this explains why she reckons Shirley Horn as one of her youngest favourites. From being just another singer Ann developed into a singer who is very careful in the handling of text and who can move and allure her audience with her sensitive voice. As Paul Visser (alias for Pete Venudor) wrote it in the original liner notes of Blue Burton: "Whether or not she is the best jazz singer in the Netherlands, others may decide. She undoubtedly is the most personal. ] And very, very blue".
Very, Very Blue. This opinion of Ann Burton is shared by John J. Vis, manager of the Haarlem record company Artone, who represents the great American label CBS in the Netherlands. Besides this Vis is producer and has many LP-volumes to his name, professing his passionate love for the jazz. On the radio he has heard one or more interpretations of Ann on an EP-record and, fascinated by her interpretation and quality of voice he gives her a call and offers the singer the opportunity of making a long-playing record. Ann reacts enthusiastically to this proposal and finds herself completely in agreement with his way of producing gramophone records which till that time in Holland was unheard of. John Vis wants to try his hand at making an album with the subtle, almost fragile sound of Burton's voice in the centre. He wants to translate a carefully selected repertoire into ballads with a very personal handling of the lyrics, which in no way refers to other versions. When the songs for Blue Burton are chosen they are a mixture of standards and songs which have just been published: from "I can't give you anything but love" written in 1928 by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh to the world hit "Sonny" composed and sung by Bobby Hebb in 1966. It is very clear: Blue Burton is meant to become the musical calling-card called Ann Burton. That is the reason why John Vis contracted the Louis van Dijk trio whose star had risen very fast in 1965 to accompany her, the leader on piano, Jacques Schols on the bass and Johnny Engels drumming, with the alto-saxophone player Piet Noordijk as a guest in several numbers. After two consecutive nights of hard work every selected number was taped perfectly to great satisfaction of everybody concerned. "It is marvellous that I got this opportunity of making a long-playing record with such wonderful songs and such great musicians to work with", writes Ann with great pleasure to a friend on the day following the completion of "Blue Burton". And let's be honest: at the time that Jazz is not very popular and even American celebrities as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee have to record pop-songs of a very mediocre quality it is a daring proposition to make an LP with a virtually unknown singer, in Holland, and give her a chance to bring songs of renown, that all the more have been arranged in a slow pace and that are not embarrassed by an all dominant beat.
On November 12th 1967 Ann Burtons debut LP is presented in the cosy "Tiffany's", a Scheveningen club. With accompaniment of Louis van Dijk an overjoyed and radiant Ann Burton sings several numbers from the album, that in the weeks following is honoured with exuberant reviews, gets a lot of attention in several radio transmissions and - last but not least - leads to nice sales figures. As an ultimate honour Blue Burton is nominated for an Edison, the highest award known by the Dutch recording world. The Edisons are given out on March 7th 1969 at the Grand Gala du Disque in the RAI congress-centre. An event she never had dared to dream of became reality: Blue Burton gets the honour of winning a prestigious price, and Ann Burton breaks through from relative anonymity into the limelight.
The success of Blue Burton is followed by the albums Ballads & Burton (1969) and "Ann Burton sings for lovers and other strangers" (1972). And several more. She becomes a great star in Japan where during the seventies she is second in popularity directly after Ella Fitzgerald and makes a number of records in Tokio, after that in New York. Still, "Blue Burton" is considered by many to be her best album. Through the years Ann Burton has made a name for herself at home and abroad. She has always stood for her repertoire, making music and lyrics into one complete happening that rises way beyond the monotonous mediocrity as prescribed by the hit parade. Unfortunately she is stricken by a fatal disease in 1980 of which she dies in Amsterdam on November 29th 1989, after long suffering.
After her passing away one of her faithful fans makes contact with some of Ann's dearest friends and acquaintances. Very much interested in Ann Burton as a singer, but foremost as a person Anneke Muller collects a treasure trove of data concerning her idol. Photographs and interviews which were safely gathered in Ann's scrapbooks complete the picture that Anneke Muller has painted as a monument in print, remembering her much adored singer. Exactly ten years after Ann's death the book, with the same title as her first LP is published. At the same time the long awaited re-issue (on CD) of the"Blue Burton" album, which has become a classic is published with addition of two songs which had not been published before, but were recorded back in 1969 for the LP. Whoever has listened to "Blue Burton" must certainly read this book. As a last remark on this CD we must consider, that the melodies and music of this well made production sound as if they were recorded yesterday in stead of 32 years (!) ago. This proves once again that real class effortlessly stands the test of time. Ann Burton will always remain real class. And always Very, Very Blue.
Willem Duys meets Ann Burton In the Book Blue Burton a preface is written by Willem Duys (Netherland's best known radio-and television host, friend and fan.)
|In the Book Blue Burton a preface is written by Willem Duys (Netherland's best known radio-and television host, friend and fan.)|