Take Five With Greg Burk

Greg Burk By

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That's a difficult question but I'd say my most recent recording, As A River is my current favorite. I think many of the concepts I've been elaborating for years are best and most sincerely expressed here. There's also an optimism that I hear in the music, which is a bit strange considering how much I read the news! This optimism moves naturally through the recording, and I think it is the result of both personal growth and musical growth. Solo piano is a challenge not only technically but also in terms of focus, story and honesty. The piano the music was recorded on was incredible and also inspired me.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

For me, the most important thing in music is sincerity, regardless of style. This sounds easier than it is, or at least has been for me. Being engaged with the mechanics and materials of music can obscure the importance of the emotional and personal in music. I've always recorded my compositions so you might say is a part of my contribution as well. It's hard to speak of one's own work as important or not. I've always felt I had no choice but to do this so the importance for me is absolute, but for others it's hard for me to say. Perhaps ideas I've developed in my music will inspire other players to develop similar but different ideas, the way that I've been inspired by others before me. This I would consider an important contribution.

Did you know...

Since moving to Italy, I've learned to park my car in ANY imaginable situation!

The first jazz album I bought was:

It was an Oscar Peterson Trio recording, I don't remember which it was on a cassette tape!

Music you are listening to now:

Paul Bley Trio: Mr Joy (Trip Records)
Aretha Franklin: The Essential Aretha Franklin (Colombia Records)
John Coltrane: Both Directions at Once (Impulse Records)
Aaron Parks: Find the Way (ECM Records)
Rajasthan Folk Music compilation (Music Today Records)

Desert Island picks:

I always have a hard time with this question but fortunately with changes in technology I won't have to bring my record player with me to the Desert Island and I can bring my hard disc with thousands of records!

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Musically there is so much interesting music being created it's hard to keep up. There is no shortage of creative, talented and capable musicians. The place of live music in society is not what it was in the past so Jazz has lost its contact with working people and non-concert goers to a degree. The beat goes on however and jazz is reaching more places on the globe and will certainly have an important and fascinating future.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Exposing kids to jazz, getting young musicians to improvise, and listen to jazz recordings. Jazz is not only a style music but a model for democracy, collaboration and expression. It is an invaluable art form for these reasons and I think the UNESCO Jazz day of April 30 is an incredible initiative that will foster cross cultural collaborations and exposure of jazz around the world.

What is in the near future?

I have performances at some festivals in Italy this summer in solo piano and some with different groups including my trio. I will also release some new music soon on Tonos Records. There's a large ensemble recording I did in collaboration with Ra Kalam Bob Moses, as well as a quintet recording, a live trio recording, a studio trio recording and other surprises. Recently I have gotten active in Climate Action awareness initiatives so in the near future I will also be involved with this.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

That the person working the sound is underqualified! There are so many difficulties in booking, touring, performing etc. When it is finally the moment to play music, and share with an audience what it is you have to offer then the sound should facilitate this, make it easier. Usually this is the case, but when it is not, for me it is the ultimate frustration.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I'll leave that to the musicians (hopefully!) that want to play or improvise something.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower? "The Blessing" by Ornette Coleman.

By Day:

Teacher. I've been teaching in the Conservatories in Italy for years and just began collaborating with Siena Jazz University this year as well.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Professional dog walker! I love animals and before I discovered jazz I was planning on becoming a veterinarian. Now I think I'd be better off just walking the dogs and letting someone else do the messy work.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Tough question! I'd say Muhammad Ali. He was an incredible person and inspiration to me.

Would you rather be a painter, dancer, writer, actor or movie director?

Writer. I began writing lyrics for some of my tunes a few years ago and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it! I've lamented the fact that the vast majority of standards talk about romantic love and nothing else. I've always felt that was so limiting.
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