Dave Burrell

Momentum
High Two HT 008

Most song-oriented of the post-Cecil Taylor pianists, Dave Burrell has been involved with theatre as well – he wrote a so-far un-mounted opera in 1978 – so Momentum plays to both his strengths.

Backed for the first time by drummer Guillermo Brown from David S. Ware’s quartet and Tim Berne-associate Michael Formanek on bass, the pianist’s eight originals either reference the classic modern jazz piano tradition or are interpolations from the score he composed for Body and Soul, Oscar Micheaux’s 1925 “race movie”.

The extent of the trio’s partnership is glimpsed on “Cool Reception”, the adjective of which refers more to attitude than temperature. At first, the pianist slowly unrolls a loping, andante melody as Brown sounds perfectly spaced metronomic accents and Formanek adds pizzicato coloration. During the course of the almost nine-minute track, as Burrell sashays the relaxed line into stop-time patterns, the others ingeniously speed up the tempo, freeing the bassist to construct a swift contrapuntal solo. Seemingly dusting the keyboard to produce tremolo cadences, Burrell eventually unites each man’s rhythmic output into an on-target finale.

Representing Micheaux’s silent melodrama which starred Paul Robeson as a con man/preacher who robs his adoring flock and “destroys” an innocent woman, Burrell’s underscore spurns Twenties recreation for modernistic motifs. For instance, while “4:30 to Atlanta”, which reflects the heroine’s sad end, contains honky-tonk echoes plus a walking bass line, it’s also animated with steady forward motion. As cymbal clacks and drum pops suggest locomotive activity, Burrell’s low-frequency passing tones recap and personalize the initial theme.

Momentum is just that, a CD that adds momentum to the 66-year-old pianist’s still vibrant career.

Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 333