You, me, the music, and me.

Monday, April 17, 2006

DAVE BURRELL High Won - High Two

Arista-Freedom AL 1906 (1976)

In the world of avant-garde jazz piano, Dave Burrell's name is one that too often goes unmentioned; less flashy and percussive than Cecil Taylor, less quietly reflective than Paul Bley, yet more versatile than either, his music falls somewhere in between the stylistic cracks.

High Won - High Two is a double-album reissue of a pair of 1968 trio sessions on the Arista-Freedom label. Sirone plays bass on all tracks, and drums are handled by Bobby Kapp (except on "East Side Colors" which features Sunny Murray). Pharoah Sanders is credited on tambourine and can be heard on several tracks (though at times one wishes he could have brought along his tenor sax).

The album opens with "West Side Story Medley", a mostly straightforward reading of various themes (including "Somewhere", "Maria", "America", and "I Feel Pretty") from Leonard Bernstein's famous musical. Occasionally the group ventures into freakout territory, with Burrell hammering on the lower keys with the sustain pedal down, but, for the most part, this is a loose, swinging tribute to Bernstein's work. Side two consists of five shorter pieces: "Oozi Oozi"'s happy harmonies and shifting time signatures sound like pumped-up Dave Brubeck, while "Bittersweet Reminiscence" sounds pretty much like its title suggests; rolling piano chords over a shifting landscape of bass and drums that threaten to break apart into violent storms of notes but nevertheless maintain a balladic tonality. "Bobby and Si" recalls Paul Bley at his most upbeat with its off-kilter ascending hook and funky bassline, and "Dave Blue" is a bright, gospel-tinged waltz. "Margie Pargie (A.M. Rag)" closes the side with a display of Burrell's ragtime chops.

"East Side Colors" takes up side three and is easily the most "out" of the music on the album (thanks in large part to the presence of Murray at the drum kit). The cut opens with thundering keyboard smashes a la Cecil Taylor over frantic bass and percussion which quickly shift into an extended bass solo by Sirone. Burrell and Murray re-enter with Murray slashing away at his cymbals and Burrell continuing his atonal assault. The main difference between Burrell's style and Taylor's seems to be sustain; where Taylor favours short, staccato bursts, Burrell prefers a more sweeping attack, with more use of the sustain pedal. In short, if Taylor plays the piano like a drum, Burrell plays it like a harp.

Side four consists of another medley, this one consisting of all five pieces from side two in a different order plus an additional tune, the Monk-like "Inside Ouch", at the end. Aside from Sanders' prominent tambourine, there isn't much difference between these recordings and the versions on the second side; the medley may have been included in order to pad the album out to a double-LP (the original album consisted only of "West Side Story Medley", "Margie Pargie" and "East Side Colors"). Still, the track is a testament to the versatility of the group and their ability to switch quickly from one mood and/or style to another, and High Wan - High Two (available on CD) is worth owning for any fan of versatile, swinging jazz and improvisation.


Post a Comment

<< Home