Dave Burrell Full Blown Trio: Expansion (2004)
Like High and its companion High Two (released by Trio in the '70s and packaged along with the rest of the session by Arista), Expansion aims to give a consummate portrait of Burrell the pianist, and like the preceding sessions, the pieces that garner the most interest are those which fall somewhat further from the free jazz trunk. Burrell is joined here by stalwart bassist William Parker and drummer Andrew Cyrille for six originals and a gorgeous solo rendition of Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful." "In the Balance" offers Burrell's plaintive right hand at a blissful plateau with Cyrille's cymbal washes and Parker's kora, a delicate but intense rhythmic interplay slowly developing out of pastoral intimacy. This is in stark contrast to the urban immediacy of the title track, where Burrell's left-hand clusters dominate against a chunky Parker-Cyrille juggernaut. A slightly demented ragtime keeps the already fluid rhythm section on its toes, sliding in and out of time more effortlessly than one would expect. The uniqueness of Burrell's approach lies in the fact that, rather than so many of his co-conspirators taking the Cecil method as a jumping-off point, the Jaki Byard model is the germinating seed. Byard and Burrell mine the dense sonic possibilities of earlier pianistic styles while remaining fleet enough to employ them in the harmonic minefield of post bop improvisation. Burrell, like Mal Waldron and Misha Mengelberg, also has a certain tendency to worry a phrase well past its seeming use, creating an undeniable rhythmic tension as well as infusing a much-needed spot of humor.
In a sense, Expansion gives Burrell at his fullest, something which larger ensemble works have failed to do. It also points to the fact that the subtleties and vastness of his improvisational palette are best heard solo, or within a small-group format such as this (and his ongoing duo with David Murray). Like some have said before, the freest approach to improvisation is that which uses the entire history of music in the span of a solo. In that regard, Dave Burrell is truly "free."
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Track Listing: 1. Expansion 2. Double Heartbeat 3. Cryin' Out Loud 4. They Say It's Wonderful 5. About Face 6. In the Balance 7. Coup d'Etat
Personnel: Dave Burrell (piano), Andrew Cyrille (drums), William Parker (bass, kora).
Record Label: High Two Recordings
Style: Modern Jazz