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Greg Burk: Everyone Should Be Present

By Published: November 14, 2005
AAJ: The band kills on that record. It's the Either/Orchestra, it's a great ensemble, and everyone sounds great. But Rick McLaughlin, the bassist, is particularly fantastic. I always get pulled into his playing on the tracks.

GB: Rick is a fantastic bassist. He's like Swallow, in a way, that he's very melodically oriented, does his role as a bassist so conscious of melody. We did a trio recording together with Jeremy Udden, who plays alto in the Either/Orchestra, which was a great project—kind of inspired by the Giuffre trios. That's on Accurate Records. It's Rick's CD. Russ [Gershon] has the magic ability of bringing everyone's best out, and it's not an easy thing to do when you're balancing such diverse personalities and tastes in music and whatever with ten people. Moods. And he even had the nerve to bring an acoustic bass to Africa; traveling with an acoustic bass is a nightmare anywhere, and to bring it to Africa took nerve. It took nerve on Rick's part, too, obviously—and with the help of a few sedatives, he made it through the trip [laughing]. But the Either/Orchestra was a great experience for me musically because I was doing mostly straight-ahead gigs at that time and it was a good working space for me—a musical playground. Russ is really open, and I had to think of other ways to accompany people and ensemble playing. It was really challenging musically.

AAJ: You also played some electric piano with that band.

GB: Yeah, I played some Rhodes and Moog synthesizer. I enjoy playing those instruments. I wish I could do it more, but it's such a pain to move them around! The Rhodes in particular; sometimes I play with the Moog on the piano in a small group setting. I don't have anything against those instruments.

AAJ: You relocated to Rome pretty recently after some years in Boston. Although at times I think that Europeans support jazz more than we Americans do, I still have to ask how living in Rome is working out for you as a jazz pianist. Do you work a lot? Are there lots of musicians to play with?

GB: Rome is the jazz center of Italy for sure and there are a lot of musicians here. Because it's such a great country to be in, almost every jazz musician has spent quite a bit of time here. Chet Baker lived here for a while. So the musicians here have played with all the touring American musicians. They're very developed musically. There's the same thing going on here that's going on elsewhere in that there's a bebop revival, hard bop revival, that's at the front of the music scene here. A couple, Stefano Di Battista and Flavio Boltro, have Blue Note recording contracts. They're great players. Italy's a country that has an incredible history and people are very fascinated by history and the past. It's almost like the past validates the present, and that's kind of reflected in the jazz scene at the moment. Part of that might just be economic reality as well, but there's a lot of places to play. The mayor just opened up the Casa del Jazz, which is a state-sponsored place, a whole center. They have a library and auditorium, rooms for musicans, an outdoor park—it's unbelievable. And it's all for jazz! State-sponsored so they don't have to worry about filling seats. I'm sure they do on some level, but it's intended to be artistically motivated. So Rome, it's got its ups and downs; I'm still trying to figure it out. They say "when in Rome, do as the Romans do, but I'm still trying to figure out how the Romans do it [laughing].

Visit Greg Burk on the web.

Selected Discography

Greg Burk Trio, Nothing, Knowing (482 Music, 2005)
Either/Orchestra, Ethiopiques 20: Live in Addis (Buda Musique, 2005)
Greg Burk Quartet, Carpe Momentum (Soul Note, 2004)
Rick DeMuzio, First Offerings (Independent, 2004)
Either/Orchestra, Neo-Modernism (Accurate, 2003)
Rick McLaughlin Trio, Study of Light (Accurate, 2003)
Greg Burk Trio, Checking In (Soul Note, 2002)
Either/Orchestra, Afro-Cubism (Accurate, 2002)
Greg Burk, Progressions and Digressions (Independent, 2001)
Spajazzy, Spajazzy (Spajazzy, 1998)

Related Article
Either/Orchestra at the National Theatre in Kampala

Photo Credit
Michael Manning
Note: Group Photo (L-R) Steve Swallow, Greg Burk, Bob Moses

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