Pianist/composer/educator Greg Burk has lived, studied, educated and performed around the world. Over the last decade, living and working in Detroit, Boston and now Rome, he has established himself not only as a vital sideman, but also as a leader with the rare ability to combine original compositions with memorable melodies and a desire to push the creative envelope as an improviser.
He has been called "an exceptional pianist/composer" (All Music Guide), "a pianist and composer with vigorous, freewheeling ideas that always feel grounded within a well-reasoned structure" (Boston Herald), "a pianist with a gift for melody and a generous touch that makes you want to like him" (LA Weekly), and a musician that "plays with an apparent love and passion for his craft" (AllAboutJazz).
Greg grew up in a culturally diverse and musical household. His father, Dennis Burk, was an internationally active conductor and the son of Russian and Polish immigrants. Greg's mother, Giovanna Collonelli, was a singer and linguist who came to the U.S. in her 20's. In her native Italy, she was a trained opera singer and winner of a national competition to study at La Scala in Milan. Greg began studying piano at age six with his grandmother, Billie Endervelt, a classically trained pianist and improviser who accompanied silent movies in her youth.
At 15, Greg discovered jazz and by 16 he was working professionally, playing solo gigs and in a group with some friends. Before leaving high school, his group performed at DownBeat's Musicfest in Chicago, where Greg was awarded outstanding soloist. His decision to become a professional musician was solidified as a teenager when friend and Detroit-based bassist Rodney Whittaker took him to hear and sit in with veteran jazz musicians and the talented younger players from the city's fertile musical scene.
As a music composition student at UMASS Amherst, Greg was fortunate to have Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp as teachers. "Lateef's approach to teaching improvisation/composition was as organic and spiritual as it was systematic and disciplined," Greg remembers. "This approach allowed me to cultivate my ideas freely while tempering them with form and specific materials. Shepp's teaching was more hands-on and involved playing Bird and Ellington tunes each week."
With composer/bassist Sal Macchia, Greg's studies included aural training, orchestration and composition. He finished his degree at the University of Michigan, where he received a Bachelor's Degree in English and Music.
After graduation, Greg settled in Bratislava, Slovakia, from which he toured throughout Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, and Italy, appearing in clubs, at festivals, and on radio and television.