How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Pianist Greg Burk embraces deconstruction and counterpoint as a player and composer, so a playful method to the madness runs through his excellent new album Berlin Bright. The opener, "Fancy Pants," exemplifies how Burk solos and writes with mild chaos in mind. After the theme the tune fractures schizophrenically, with Ignaz Dinne soaring melodically up front on alto while Burk plays a roiling counterpoint behind him. This startling, clever effect sounds like two open music sites on the Internet playing different kinds of music simultaneously; Burk drives the band by creating tension and complexity behind the soloists. On "Ugly Butterfly" and "Zoo for Two," for example, he restlessly explores and works off the melody with his left field chord progressions. Throughout the album he runs the same race as his band mates, but does so along a slightly different track.
Whether through a spry, pocket-sized waltz like "Tiny Tune" or the Coltrane-influenced "The Invisible Child," Burk and his quartet display an ability to play straight-ahead jazz with texture, cohesiveness and versatility. The driving rhythm of "Without Annette" has a Bad Plus kind of energy; the Delta blues highlights every pulse of Jonathan Robinson's splendid pizzicato on "Back Home" and his overall skills as a bassist are the foundation of his richly layered composition "Auslanderlied," which has the earmarks of a standard in the making. Berlin Bright shows that the Greg Burk Quartet isn't afraid to challenge the audience, or itself, with music that, although sometimes unpredictable, is never inaccessible and always stimulating.
Track Listing: Fancy Pants; The Invisible Child; Back Home; Zoo for Two; Ugly Butterfly; Without Annette; First Impression; Tiny Tune; Auslanderlied.
Personnel: Greg Burk: piano; Ignaz Dinne: alto and soprano saxophones; Jonathan Robinson: bass; Andrea Marcelli: drums.