A key ingredient in creative improvised music is willingness on the part of the musician to embrace experimentation. Improvisation by nature demands that the improviser be receptive to new and spontaneous creation. Burton Greene has exemplified this fundamental facet of the improvisers’ credo throughout his nearly four decades in jazz. At times his experiments have resulted in fizzling failures. Such is the risk of working in the ‘without a net’ world of improvised music; everyone has their bad days. But more often than not Greene’s music has yielded a great deal of worth and lasting merit. He also appears to have escaped the insidious malaise of repetition that can sometimes cripple artists who have been at their craft for decades. His playing couples the fresh-faced enthusiasm of someone who is just becoming acquainted with the music with a technical understanding of the piano that reveals his authoritative skill behind the keys.
On this trio recording Greene is in the company of two players who readily match his infectious enthusiasm. Morris is one of the finest improvising bassists on any scene and Grassi’s abilities behind the trap set continue to be documented at a prolific frequency. Greene contributes nearly all of the compositions save the opening piece which is by Morris and “Tilo Akandita Brikama,” a tribute to South African bassist Johnny Dyani penned by Pierre Dørge.
“Light Blue” commences with the trio in full force as Greene cleaves staccato clusters of notes against a tense rhythmic cincture supplied by Morris and Grassi. Greene’s vocals announce “What’s Your Jones,” a composition that reflects it’s addictive subject matter with a nervous alacrity. An almost ‘inside’ swinging effervescence envelopes “Tilo Akandita Brikama” and Morris tugs deeply at his strings in veneration to Dyani. Greene contributes more vocalized embellishments that are somewhat distracting despite their spirited delivery. His lengthy solo preface on “Lennie Lives” is another matter however and he manages an agile colloquy between right and left hands with the memory of Tristano set firmly in his sights. The light-hearted “Mississippi Clarence” exhibits another of Greene’s many moods in the form of simple New Orleans march structure that dissolves into less predictable discord. With the closing “Hey Pithy, Can You Thropt the Erectus?” a clever tribute to Mingus, the trio comes full circle. Quick vocalized shouts blend with a primordial musical shuffle of block chords, elastic bass strings and rattling percussion. Grassi’s closing solo is a dynamo of carefully controlled rhythmic energy. Here then are three men who inject an experimental edge into the timeworn piano trio format with tenacity and good humor. Their finished product ends up being one of the most enjoyable additions to Burton Greene’s broad discography.
The world of jazz is a musical space with a complex history and haunting appeal--a space to revisit and celebrate. It’s that
amazing moment when you hear a really great song you haven't heard in years and you still know the tune and every word.