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Greg Burk Trio: Nothing, Knowing

Michael McCaw By

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When examining the individual pieces of a puzzle, one only sees parts of the picture, but not the whole. Considering the individual elements that comprise Nothing, Knowing is something along those same lines. You can focus on the way pianist Greg Burk builds and deconstructs around a melody played by electric bassist Steve Swallow while drummer Bob Moses works his kit, but when you step back and look at the total picture, you can truly become captivated with this recording.

Burk's style is reminiscent of a couple of influences. References from Paul Bley to Chick Corea have their place, though they do little to say how they inform the whole—a musician of considerable talents. Working from the galvanized poles of straight-ahead and free jazz, Burk moves freely within the grey area: sometimes sounding akin to Corea's New Trio and its sense of bounce and playfulness on a track like "Operetta, or quite different on "Borneo Dreaming, where Moses sets the tone as Burk plays within a modified piano. The trio melds the two worlds seamlessly, never sounding gimmicky or outside of the song's center.

Although Burk contributed every composition, this is a collective trio. That spirit is prevalent throughout, but it's especially emphasized on the nineteen-minute "Truth Be Told. Here Burk opens with an off-kilter walk that moves with an almost zigzag feel, interspersed with a delicate nursery rhyme-like line that is stretched in various ways. As the piece evolves from theme to theme, it never loses pace or focus due to the trio's sense of dynamics, which is uniformly engaging and never becomes overbearing or exhaustive in nature.

Swallow is another reason for the recording's success. Whether or not you're a fan of his sound, he is recorded and utilized in a way that works completely on Nothing, Knowing. He can stretch to resonate like an acoustic bass or mine the middle range of the instrument in a style that is pretty unique when it comes to electric bassists, and he can even make it sing in the same manner as a guitar. Moses also shines, imparting his individuality as well. A holdover from previous albums, his approach to the kit mirrors the way Burk approaches the piano within the variety of settings presented. Whether working inside or out, he never abandons the rudiments of his instrument and never seems out of place or context.

In the end, the trio turns every composition into an engrossing moment of musical interplay and thought. In the liner notes Burk makes note that "in the moments of discovery that [the process of improvising in a variety of contexts as communication] brings about, the world expands to infinity and the familiar becomes fascinating, returning us to the childlike state of knowing less and seeing more. And where the individual pieces that inform these players' improvisational choices are interesting on their own, it is the whole absorbing picture that is most palpable and speaks to their success.

When you put this puzzle together and look at the big picture of Nothing, Knowing, you are seeing one of the strongest records of the year.

Track Listing: Old Souls; Prelude to Surrender; Truth be Bold; Look to the Neutrino; Blink to Be; Operetta; Borneo Dreaming; Big Bird; Doves.

Personnel: Greg Burk: piano; Steve Swallow: bass; Bob Moses: drums.

Title: Nothing, Knowing | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: 482 Music

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