Like the late Jaki Byard, Dave Burrell is a pianist with a broad grasp of older jazz repertoires, most strikingly those represented by Stride and Ragtime. Hybridizing these antique styles with post-bop and free elements his keyboard sound is a creative pastiche of past, present and possible future. This particular recital focuses attention on what could be considered his more ‘inside’ leanings. Brown’s proven versatility through past gigs with Max Roach and Odean Pope makes him a fine foil for the series of relaxed and lyrical duets. Encompassing a program of standards from various jazz eras from Jelly Roll Morton, through Ellington to John Coltrane the music tailored to their designs provides a tour that is both varied and accessible. Burrell’s firm, but buoyant syncopations on the Satchmo classic “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” is a beautiful example, where the melodic and rhythmic integrity of the tune is both preserved and expanded upon. Brown plucks out a resilient throbbing line. Burrell’s “Samba Rondo” suggests a startling contrast pushing the pair into an impressionistic place as the pianist pecks out a sparse shower of tightly wound clusters around Brown’s febrile string strums.
Reeling back into quieter and sweeter sonorities the duo’s rendition of “You Go to My Head” once again celebrates the diversity of Burrell’s thematic affections. An open letter to the consummate drummer “Dear Mr. Roach,” shows off Brown’s composerly talents and incorporates a clutch of Monkish melodic angles. Angularity also reigns supreme on the lurching version “Caravan,” which weaves rag-like flourishes between the almost staccato rhythmic suspensions. The simplicity of “Shortnin’ Bread” is another study in contrasts and slips some with some audible hesitations from Burrell. The pianist’s own waltz “With a Little Time” re-establishes equilibrium and Burrell sounds positively resplendent in his explorations of the piece’s dark melody. Ending their concert appropriately with Trane’s “Giant Steps” the Burrell delights in the composition’s interlacing harmonic patterns comping another ragtime counter rhythm against the piece’s vertical theme while Brown sustains a bouncing rhythmic pulse. Another asset to the set is Marc Rusch’s ‘hands off’ approach to sound engineering, which allows the musicians and their instruments the space and freedom to breath and in turn creates a pristine facsimile of the live recital experience.
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Track Listing: Never Let Me Go/ Struttin
Personnel: Dave Burrell- piano; Tyrone Brown- bass. Recorded: August 9, 2000, Canton, NY.