JAZZ REVIEW : Billy Burdin at Westwood Marquis


The cocktail pianist represents a genre that has been around almost as long as cocktail lounges. Billy Burdin, currently ensconced in the lounge of the Westwood Marquis Tuesdays through Saturdays, is about as typical of the breed as anyone around town.

Unlimited technique is no more a prerequisite than originality or creative artistry. What is needed is the ability to keep the music flowing, usually by means of a steady stream of Broadway show tunes, popular standards and an occasional original work.

Burdin does all this, singing on most numbers in a voice for which the best word is utilitarian. Of his two Ray Charles pieces, one was a derivative blues, the other a more satisfactory “Georgia on My Mind.”


His keyboard work involves occasional fugue-like touches. Harmonically he has much to learn; he seems to be less than completely at ease when improvising a solo. His own composition, “Pentatonic Swing,” suggested that he might be better off working on new material of this kind instead of relying on time-worn tunes like “Ballerina,” which was a bore when Nat Cole did it 30 years ago.

Herb Mickman’s bass kept a beat going throughout, while Burdin, who is blind, seemed unconcerned about the talking that was going on at one table--a distraction with which musicians who work in cocktail lounges must learn to live. With it or without it, he will be here through July 8.