A Fireside Chat with Dave Burrell
AAJ: Traditionalist with respect for the avant-garde. David Murray comes to mind.
DB: Yeah, with David, it was unbelievable to hear him before I started to work with him and collaborate with him - to hear him take a simple motif and just elaborate for five or ten minutes and hold an audience spellbound. When he hit town in 1975, he was down at Studio Rivbea, Sam Rivers' loft and I was there listening to him. He did a solo performance there. Not only was he able to put that concept out, he was only 20 or 21 years old then, he was not only doing it on tenor, but on bass clarinet too.
AAJ: How did the Echo session originate?
DB: I was part of the all-star group that Archie Shepp put together to take to the Pan-African Festival in Algiers in 1969. What happened down there was the most dramatic change in how I looked at where I wanted to go with the music. I was taught at Berklee that we had to learn how to play before we could go outside.
When I got to Africa and all of the countries were represented with their musicians, I heard drums all day and all night. Finally, it was our turn to play and they had us in a boxing ring in the town square. The boxing ring had an upright piano in it. I will never forget being led through the crowd to the boxing ring and getting in under the ropes. It was a very, very hot and intense evening. The music started to play itself and the people's energy made it easy.
After that experience, we got to play in a hall opposite Oscar Peterson and Nina Simone. The French press was there from Paris and they talked about coming through Paris and doing a series of recordings. By this time, I was very spiritually charged. Being back in Paris, I remembered the sound of the ambulances and the police cars in Algiers and that unstable interval of an augmented fourth and thought that was the interval that I wanted to put into Echo. I got all of the players and decided to honor all of the group that was in Algiers with me by giving them a date. I was on most of the other dates by my colleagues. It was a very intense time. The French did not know how to record the music, nor did anybody else. The dials were going wild and nobody really knew how to mix it back then. I think we had the lights off in the studio and I told somebody to nudge me when a half an hour was up. That is how we did that recording session.
AAJ: The latest, Expansion, features your Full-Blown Trio: William Parker and Andrew Cyrille. Yet, the understated record defies the band's emphatic name.
DB: We started this group, Full-Blown Trio. I asked William and Andrew to join me. A tour was put together for us last November and December and we ended up recording in Brooklyn. When we started off, we were a little stiff with the music, especially with the title track, which is in 13/8 time. As the tour went on, it got better and better and more familiar. We figured out collectively more things to do that made musical sense. So by the time we did the date, we had loosened up a lot.
AAJ: And the future?
DB: We're up for the Equinox Festival in Boston on John Coltrane's birthday, September 23. I would like to go back to the Jazz Bakery.