Burton Greene/Tilo Baumheier

Post Monk Songbook
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1266

Guillaume Gargaud/Burton Greene

Magic Intensity

Chant Records CR1909BU (CDr DL)

The comparison may not exactly fit, but even in his ninth decade, like Ol’ Man River, pianist Burton Greene just keeps rolling along – with no sign of diminishing ideas or skills. Long an Amsterdam resident, Chicago-born Greene, 82, who during a 60 plus year career has found simpatico associates of many ages, styles and locations including from Marion Brown, Sunny Murray, Ernst Reijseger and Marcelo de Reis and these CD partnerships are no exceptions to this truism.

While German-born, Weesp-based flutist Tilo Baumheier is a former conservatory student of the pianist with whom he was recently reunited professionally, Greene met Le Havre-based guitarist Guillaume Gargaud in a thoroughly 21st century manner – via Face book – and they decided to record together. A houseboat resident like Greene, Baumheier has been part of Greene ensembles and played with other locals, while Gargaud has recorded with Marc Edwards, another American iconoclast.

A slight misnomer, Post Monk Songbook includes only one Monk composition as well as five by the flutist, one by Greene and nine improvisations. However there are points during which Baumheier lines evolve with a Monkish cast, although Greene is too much of an individualist to let the other pianist’s work affect his playing. Instead here and on Magic Intensity, he’s more likely to interpolate a Dadaist quote from an incongruous ditty – is that a bit of “Pop Goes the Weasel” on “Blue Monk”? – at the same time adding energetic surges to the flutist’s direct interpretation of the tune.

Other than that these duets range from simple to complex, formal to free and pushy to placid. Unforeseen avenues are explored, as on “Dream Your Sunny Life”, which wraps flutter tongued puffs from Baumheier, with spirited piano chording to add up to a near-Calypso. There’s also “Intelligent Blues”, which reconstitutes the 12-bar form, moving the theme forward with hard transverse slurs and slithery piano comping. Baumheier’s Jazz roots come to the fore on “Malcompris”, as the flutist’s paced clarion slurs join Greene’s low-frequency key coloration in dramatic motion. Plus there’s “Jurancon Sec & Comte” where the pianist’s hunt-and-peck variations threaten to recapitulate Swing Era stylings, though Latin and Bop pacing surfaces in the coda. Baumheier’s formal training sporadically asserts itself when he creates solos or themes which sound a touch too pat, elegant or recital-ready. But luckily most of the time he swiftly reins in this tendency with output that sometimes highlights metal slaps, tongue motions and abrasive low pitches.

The defining track is Greene’s extended composition “Atomic Balm”. As keyboard patterns accelerate from a gentle exposition along with circular flute breath motions, Greene’s encircling tones from the other side climax in stop-time variations that bring out air-hovering growls and whistles. By the finale both lines concentrate into slurry trills with a memory of the head.

Baumheier is also present on three tracks on the other CD, but the main focus is on the interaction between Greene and Gargaud. With a similar chordal instrument capable of the same sort of string aggression he uses, the pianist gives the guitarist enough latitude to advance the duets chromatically with single-string frails, expanded tags and enough power to suggest hard-core flamenco runs. In the meantime besides constructing motifs to both connect and advance the tracks, Greene slips in sardonic asides. Some tracks include decorative percussion emphasis from wood blocks, bell trees and finger cymbals. Plus the unexpected interjection of familiar songs within tough improvisations is used more extensively as on the former disc. Isn’t that “Blue Rondo a la Turk” that suddenly sounds in the middle of “Space Rhythms”? And “Frère Jacques” makes its appearance not only on “Apart Together” – another pun perhaps – bur also on “Capricious Voyage to Serenity” when the two are joined by the flutist.

With the exposition pulled tighter and tighter on “Space Rhythms”, the guitarist slides up his strings to meet the pianist’s percussive strutting, gamely picks up the musical quote and further strengthens it, until in a further detour, Greene slows down the narrative to a dirge, with the finale divided between twangs and frails from Gargaud and hard keyboard smashes. Although “Apart Together” is more percussive and is created with darker construction, by the end it also features an about face into duple higher pitches. Meantime two-handed stings and jumps allow Greene to sneak around the keyboard during “Climb Up and Float” as Gargaud’s slurred fingering evolve to confirm the tautness of his strings as until the narrative is calmed with lyrical pops and squirms.

Baumheier’s addition, especially on the extended “Capricious Voyage to Serenity” includes more detours into nursery-rhyme-like three-part harmonies, despite the theme relating more to movement than serenity. Slippery, full-flavored flute stutters further make connections among the three a little slipperier, even as Greene constructs new variants on “Frère Jacques” to keep the narrative on track. His final pedal pressure on lower notes cements the tune’s grit, trumping the other instruments’ mellow orientation.

Greene still plays with the same smarts and intelligence in the 21st Century as he has throughout his career. These discs prove that appropriate partners for his creativity continue to arrive.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Post: 1. Zweigelt mit Camembert 2. Time Shift 4 B 3.Ochtend Mist Boven de Vecht 4. Monk's Dream 5. Shift 6. Malcompris 7. Jurancon Sec & Comte 8. Gom 9. Intelligent Blues 10. Hope 11. Atomic Balm 12. Dream Your Sunny Life 13. 20 September 2009 14. Walzin mit Wolferl 15. Tilo Leunt Uit Het Raam Tot Vliegens Toe 16. 4 November 2009

Personnel: Post: Tilo Baumheier (flutes) and Burton Greene (piano)

Track Listing: Magic: Space Dialogue 2. Space Rhythms 3. Climb Up and Float 4. Apart Together 5. Hush..!* 6. Primal Lanscape* 7. Capricious Voyage to Serenity*

Personnel: Magic: Tilo Baumheier (flutes)*, Guillaume Gargaud (guitar) and Burton Greene (piano and percussion)