It has been my feeling that in the past few years Burton Greene's (b. 1937, Chicago, IL) creative focus has been at the top of its game and that has, to a great degree, motivated me to help him produce and document his work. It is what directly led me to discussing with him—soon after our last session in August 2005—the idea of giving an extended forum to his talents. We decided to do three consecutive recording sessions (solo, trio, and quintet) to try to capture a fuller picture of the state of Burton's art as of the Summer of 2005.
The next hurdles were arriving at the personnel and working out the logistics. Burton is more or less transcontinental so working out rehearsal and recording time in coordination with both of our schedules and the schedules of the other artists took some doing. Burton's first choice of rhythm was the Schullers: Ed (b. 1955, NYC, NY) and George (b. 1958, NYC, NY), a team at times who collectively between themhave over 50 years of experience and documentation (predominately on the East Coast) in the creative improvising music scene.
Burton, who had spent many months composing and arranging this music, was insistent on filling out the quintet sides with musicians who would be able to handle the charts aswell as play. That is a given for Paul Smoker (b. 1941, Muncie, IN). Paul is a master musician and unquestionably one of the very best and exacting Jazz trumpeters in the world. Having worked with him numerous times in the past, I'm not sure Paul can even help being so excitingly inventive. In addition to this, Paul had recorded a duo session with Ed Schuller in 2001 (Cadence Jazz Records).
The sax position was the last to be filled and, upon the recommendation of Ed Schuller, went to Russ Nolan (b. 1968, Gurnee, IL), a player familiar to me only from his recording, Two Colors (Rhinoceruss Records). Ed had been impressed by him when, on short notice, Russ subbed in a band and not only was able to handle the charts on a cold read but also soloed with authority. My own inquiries yielded reports that rehearsals and sets with the quintet went well, suggesting that Ed's confidence hadbeen well founded.
The sound check for a quintet in an empty hall is always a bit of work, but for me the familiar sounds of Burton's piano and harmonics were both refreshing and most welcome. While I was anxious to get recording, I did have the benefit of listening to some nice music.
The quintet opened with Triple Gemini, a wonderful composition by Jill McManus that had served as the vehicle for the sound checks. The brief freeform piano intro was a last-minute addition and came about from Burton's piano noodlings that, after a group concensus, all felt would make an effective intro tothe composition. Triple Gemini proved to be a wonderful way to open the recording session, evoking a good feeling with classically formed solos and lots of Burton's footprint: familiar, identifiable, and distinctly original. If this serves as an introduction to the musical talents of the quintet,the follow-up of Afro Balkan Blues reinforces that standard. Afro Balkan opened with a finely focused bass intro built around the music's DNA. Paul came in as expected (read: outstanding) followed by Russ who confirmed a large assertive sound reasonably reflective of the kid himself. Russ, who held his own in conversation with the old folks the night before, now showed he could walk it like he talks it. Then there's George's rhythm (proving there's little chance for anyone to lose-the-beat), throwing off a nice solo—after Burton's thing—to boot. This pattern of inspired passion and professionalism was sustained throughout most of the day, from blowouts to ballads.
A long time in the making, rehearsal, and performance. Even so, this date unfolded with new surprises—as living music should. Lots of good music in which to lose one's self and to find satisfaction.
Robert D.Rusch - Aug. 16, 2005
Burton Greene can also be heard on CIMPs 182, 251, 316.
Paul Smoker can also be heard on CIMPs 105, 129, 173, 178, 186, 207, 211, 219, 226, 227, 233, 236, 249, 253, 262, 263, 300.