Narada Burton Greene | Live at Kerrytown House | No Business Records

Narada Burton Greene – piano

Recorded live at Kerrytown House, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA on 17th October, 2010 by John Erskine and Jean-Yves Münch.

Edited by Jean-Yves Münch.

Photo by Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas.

Produced by Burton Greene and Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Tracklist: LP Side A 1. Freebop the 4th  2. Tree 3. Freebop the 1st Side B 1. Prevailence 2. Green Mansions  Side C 1. Little Song 2. Elevation 3. Freebop the 6th Side D 1. Don’t Forget the Poet 2. Get Through It 3. Space is Still the Place

Tracklist CD: 1. Freebop the 4th 4’44” 2. Tree 7’43” 3. Freebop the 1st 5’42” 4. Prevailence 8’17” 5. Greene Mansions 12’14” 6. Little Song 5’28” 7. Elevation 6’27” 8. Freebop the 6th 6’06” 9. Don’t Forget the Poet 5’35” 10. Get Through It 9’01” 11. Space Is Still The Place 6’48”

Though modern, “avant-garde” jazz

is an ensemble music often based on collective improvisation, solo performance is its own extraordinarily fruitful sub-area of investigation for the creative improviser. Without a reactive, interpretive partner (or several), the solo recital blurs the lines between composition and improvisation as the performer enters a world of unfettered development. Greene has been performing and recording solo since the 1970s, and these settings have yielded some of the most powerful statements in his oeuvre. As diverse as Greene’s palette is, his music is entirely about being grounded – and at home. — Clifford Allen

Burton Green | Photo by Scott Friedlander

Photo by Scott Friedlander

Burton Greene

was born and spent his early years in Chicago, Illinois. He had seven years of classical music training with Isadore Buchalter of the Fine Arts Building. Burton studied jazz theory and harmony with Dick Marx, and continued his music education in the “School of the Streets” of the mid 1950’s from such luminaries as Billy Green and Ira Sullivan. He arrived in New York in 1962 and formed probably the first spontaneous composition group with bassist Alan Silva in ’63: The Free Form Improvisation Ensemble. He joined the Jazz Composers Guild in ’64 (organized by Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor) and formed his first recorded quartet in ’65 which included Marion Brown and Henry Grimes. He performed in New York in the 1960’s with such people as Sam Rivers, Rashied Ali, Albert Ayler, Patty Waters, Byard Lancaster, Gato Barbieri, etc. Burton was involved with the New Music Concert Series in Town Hall and YMHA organized by Max Pollikoff which included panel discussions with Morton Feldman and Earl Brown.

Burton moved to Europe in 1969–first to Paris and then to Amsterdam. Since that time he has toured and recorded extensively in both Western and Eastern Europe with occasional tours in America. Mr. Greene has recorded over 60 records and CD’s of his compositions in many and varied contexts. As an eclectic composer and performer, his works are involved with jazz, contemporary classics, electronics, and a great variety of folklore musics.

Burton has collaborated with many musicians; among them are John Tchicai, Johnny Dyani, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Willem Breuker, Han Bennink, Keshavan Maslak, Sunny Murray, Steve Tintweiss, Shelly Rusten, Frank Wright, Sean Bergin, Paul Stocker, Theo Loevendie, Maarten van Regteren Altena, Martin van Duynhoven, Clarence Becton, Perry Robinson, Roswell Rudd, Tjitze Vogel, Raoul van der Weide, Tom Jones, Tobias Delius, Michael Moore, Akki Hak, Lou Grassi, Wilber Morris, Roy Campbell, Mark Dresser, Adam Lane, Paul Smoker, Russ Nolan, Ed and George Schuller etc., etc.

A free jazz survivor of the first order

pianist Burton Greene continues to turn out high- class music in his seventies. Chicago-born in 1937, Greene was in NYC for the birth of the so-called New Thing with a membership in the Jazz Composers Guild and several ESP-Disks as proof. Part of the wave of players who expatriated to Europe after 1969 Greene became a pioneer in mixing jazz improvisation with new age, electronic and Klezmer music. Yet as this 11-track live date, recorded in Ann Arbor in 2010 demonstrates, he’s never lost his pianistic facility. It’s as perfectly balanced as any of his earlier solo projects. Running through a couple of familiar themes and a handful of on-the-spot creations, the pianist highlights influences he’s synthesized to create his more-than-mature style.

Supple, energetic and never ponderous even when outlining a ballad, Greene’s playing is compelling and even droll, especially when he lopes along the keys during the three “Freebop” variations. Greene is a tunes man and performs his compositions in digestible portions. Original in conception, his affinity for Thelonious Monk’s angular phrasing and economic style is obvious on tracks like “Little Song”. Yet his playing has deep roots as well. Often, as on “Freebop the 6th”, Monkish singularity gives way to kinetic sequences of high-frequency syncopation, introducing boogie woogie and stride inferences. With an unbeatable sense of pacing, Greene gradually works his key strokes upwards as if climbing a ladder rung by rung; once at the top he figuratively dives off, creating unexpected and animated theme variations as he lands

Greene’s set list is studded with surprises and juxtapositions. Take “Get Through It” and “Space Is Still The Place” which follow one another. The tunes are respectively a pseudo-Tin Pan Alley ditty with heavy accents, and a stop-time exercise in how long a note can be held. The first mutates into a minimalist sound picture with additional staccato plinking; the second, with its Sun Ra-saluting title, eventually reveals another jolly, jerky theme.

“Greene Mansions” is the definitive Greene performance though. Played in free time with intermittent pauses, the bravura narrative allows him to slap the keys with one hand while exposing subterranean tremolos with the other. He minutely scrutinizes each tone and note cluster; refers to the theme intermittently and ends with distinctive key clipping.

Live at Kerrytown House is notable recital by a musician who continues to improvise at the height of his powers a half century after his first recording. — Ken Waxman


CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 15.00
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Double LP version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 38.00
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3 thoughts on “Narada Burton Greene | Live at Kerrytown House | No Business Records

  1. Narada Burton Greene has been a part of the new improvisation music scene for so many years, he has been such a singular presence within it, he practically has become an institution of one. The Burton Greene of today is flourishing, a pianist-composer-improviser of many facets, a creator who thrives in his embodiment of tradition and change, freedom and structure, the past and the future.

    Or so it seems to me as I listen to his solo performance Live at Kerrytown House (No Business NBCD 39).

    Maestro Greene is like a coral island, each piece of what it is to be Burton Greene remains, the earlier conjoining with successive waves of later developments, nothing left behind but everything coming to bear on the present now of what he plays today.

    So on this solo set you hear some of the “free” elements of early Greene, the more composed avant elements, the expressively improvised tonalities, melodic originality, harmonic movement, a hint of stride and bop, all a part of who Burton Greene is today.

    It is no-frills Burton Greene, an essentialist pairing down that is decidedly NOT generic. He sounds satisfyingly, undeniably like himself. Unpredictable, not reducible to a set of influences because he has gone his own way all this time. And here he is, in the present-day, giving us almost 80 minutes of who he is.

    It might surprise even the most well-versed Greene aficionado. He goes to places unexpected at times, but he brings it all together for us in the end, in the middle, the beginning.

    This is serious music that lifts you up and sets you down in another place. Each segment hits you like a wave on the beach, ever different, no two exactly alike, but once you know what’s coming (or rather you know you don’t know) it gives you musical satisfaction.

    This isn’t a summing up, for there is no doubt much more to come. It is a summing in, a faithful portrait of part of who Burton Greene is today.

    So listen and I think it will put you someplace nice.

  2. The maturity of an artist is built on how far and how well the artist pursues an idea. For Narada Burton Greene, the musical idea is the one that he is playing at the moment. Although he may have something in mind before he starts a solo concert, like the one at Kerrytown Concert House, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he begins is where he begins and where he ends has a simple resonant conclusion, the seventy-eight minutes in between equivalent of a short evolution.

    On Live at Kerrytown House, the music is thematic, tends to be quiet, slightly explosive, adhering to Greene’s sense of humor, lyricism and even romantic melody. He does not play without minor improvisational discords and cantankerous fingerings. For it is with these juxtapositions that Greene maintains the utmost integrity and musicianship. He has collaborated with and arranged compositions by associates, including longtime colleague Silke Röllig. With Röllig, he has created some of the most evocative contemporary piano music that there is.

    The miracle of Greene’s music is its never-ending luster. Not one piece in this performance eludes its brightness or demonstrates lack of respect for the instrument he plays.

    “Freebop” for Greene implies as much grace as going off an edge; the three versions here are all different yet in some ways very much the same. The intermittent sounds of a couple of the small percussive instruments he carries with him to every performance are a joy to hear: they are brief hiatuses in the currency of the pianistic flow. “Prevailence” and “Greene Mansions” exemplify compositions where the main musical subject acts as an armature off which filigreed vagaries can weave and return, like vines on a trellis.

    It is not difficult to detect the language that governs Greene’s playing: the ascending and descending chordal runs or marches; the two-handed chord systems that move up the keyboard from which stream tuneful treble explorations; or the stopping and starting of his process so that he can reassess and re-commence with a possible repetition of ideas.

    Greene is no longer interested in smashing things across the piano sounding board as he once was in order to prove that free expression is admissible. Rather, as he knows deeply now, he makes a statement no matter how he portrays the richness of his life, from Chicago to New York to Amsterdam, where he has spent most of his adulthood. His concentration is unswerving; his dedication to his art unabashed.

    The sage that he is, as his Yogic name Narada indicates, Burton Greene embraces an essential cultural core in his music. He never flounders and always is pondering the next step, whether that be for a solo or group context. Coming out of a meditative state of solitude or the conviviality of others, Greene is giving us his truth of self.

  3. In an interview with Dan Warburton in 2003 the pianist Narada Burton Greene made it clear that the problem jazz has today is that there is “a whole generation of copycats” who try to “recreate the museum”. He continues telling a story about his early days when he was “strutting like a peacock” after a jam session because he thought “he nailed it”. Then a man from the audience approached and told him to his utter surprise that he should go home in order to practice because he sounded like Horace Silver and if someone wants to listen to Horace Silver he goes out watching the original. So Greene realized that he had to find his voice.

    Listening to Live at the Kerrytown House, a solo piano performance recorded in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA in 2010, you can immediately hear this original voice. 75-year-old Greene, who has become a legend in the meantime, is able to draw on abundant musical resources ranging from his bebop beginnings in the 1950s to free jazz and classical music like Bela Bartok up to klezmer music and almost balladesque melodies reminding of Keith Jarrett’s solo performances.

    The central piece of the album is “Freebop”, which is split in “4th”, “1st”, and “6th”, a track Burton Greene composed with German vocalist Silke Röllig. All three parts follow a similar structure. They start with a jumpy bebop theme, the left hand playing a walking bass. The tracks are polyrhythmic and they seem to climb up and down a musical ladder, getting finally out of hand. Sharp strong chords cut off what has remained of the melody before the piece returns to the main theme which is then immediately deconstructed again. This part of the album is shrill, sometimes spooky and harsh. It’s what the title of the track says – free bop.

    But the album has another face as well – and this one is extraordinarily beautiful. Burton Greene once claimed that playing freely also includes playing cadenzas. “Tree”, for example, is built around a central harmonic trunk from which lyrical and lush melodic lines rise like branches and twigs. They are sometimes jubilantly dissonant and incline to getting out of hand but in the end they always return to the trunk. This is where the album is pure joy.

    Live at the Kerrytown House is splendidly recorded, the piano seems to echo in the performing space, something Clifford Allen discusses in his superb liner notes.

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