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Artist Profiles

Pianist Dave Burrell

By Published: April 5, 2003
When he speaks, the words "learn" and "study" pop up continually. ("Maybe I'm a late bloomer, but I still need to do a lot more studying," he says.) Ever since he graduated from the Berklee School of Music in 1965, he has been evolving and growing as a musician and composer. In fact, when he first graduated, he did not even want to go out to play gigs, because he felt he had not yet attained the level of skill that he heard in the pianists he had been listening to, musicians like Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Horace Silver, Bill Evans and Tommy Flanagan. Fortunately, alto saxo-phonist Marion Brown and drummer Andrew Cyrille coaxed him out of "the shed" for a gig.

The other thing about how Burrell speaks is that he speaks very slowly. His pacing is even and his diction clear. Each word is deliberate and carefully thought out. Yet the tone of his voice rises and falls with his ideas, not with his punctuation. It comes across as being the same method of communication that he uses when he transcends the bar lines in his music. He simply likes to spread out. Describing the evolution of his compositions, he says that he thinks now in movements, rather than just groups of measures.

He also says that "right now, I'm looking back at all of these different experiences and getting ready to do, more or less, one capsulized way of centering them. I want to go down the center of all this stuff, documenting it with my new level of musicianship." While you can bet that his upcoming work will draw from his ever-expanding wealth of knowledge and experience, the chances that he will find one single way to express all of it are slim. As soon as he finds one style he is comfortable with, odds are he will think of three more he would like just as much to explore.

Photo Credit Nina D'Allesandro

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Download jazz mp3 “Downfall” by Dave Burrell