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Unduality, a duet between pianist Greg Burk and Dominican-born conguero Vicente Lebron, is quite simply the most innovative interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Invention #1" since conceived by the master. It could be one of the most striking re-imaginings of a previously composed piece, ever. In themselves, the Bach's Inventions are superlative creations demonstrating contrapuntal technique, while at the same time exploring a wide range of expressions using various styles in several keys and developing the motives in a brilliantly logical fashion. Bach's melodic variations consisted of augmented, diminished, inverted and retrograde exercises as well.
Burk goes a step further in his re-imaginingsfurther, that is, than imagining their creation in an African setting, with primordial percussive breaks by Lebron. What he has done is "teach" the motives to each of his hands, to play the contrapuntal parts in the different keys, and then recreated the augmented, diminished, inverted and retrograde figures almost independently of each other by varying the pulse of each motif, delaying the left hand while accelerating the right for instance, and vice versa. Using loops and overdubs adds to the harmonic possibilities. But at the core is Burk's unbridled virtuosity, with its sublime control over dynamics and expression that sets him in a class by himself.
Those familiar with the progressions of Bach's original "Invention #1" will also marvel at Burk's sometimes irreverent interpretations and re-imaginings, especially when Burk delves into the realm of contrapuntal dissonance. There is also the spectacular interaction of Lebron's superb percussion, which conjures elemental visions of a calm earth, or someone in the midst of turbulence; his wind percussion in "Beach Party" is absolutely superb. Burk also outdoes himself in the re-interpretation of Bach's exercise throughout, and his "Unduality Ten: Bach to the Future" (each of the key changes are referred to as "Undualities") is perhaps one of the high points of the album. Another must surely be Burk's own imagination and extension of the original exercise in "Unduality Thirteen: Vox Bach." And the Monk-like, chopped elegance of "Unduality Twelve: Bach Out" is a stunning inversion in itself. But to end the expedition with chorale counterpoint that chips and cracks open the scale is truly inspired.
Clearly, on the strength of this album, Burk can be considered one of the most inspired innovators in music. Unduality is one of the most surprising sets of improvisations this year, on the level as anything that another genius, Bobby McFerrin