Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dave Burrell Trio - 03/10/2006@Vooruit, Gent

Dave Burrell - p
Michael Formanek - b
Guillermo E. Brown - d

Gent is incredibly beautiful. It has an amazing combination of serene canals, elaborate facades and, because it's a student town, hipper-than-thou bars, clothing shops and restaurants. Still, looking for a parking spot in a city you don't know is stressful and frustrating. I ended up missing the first half-hour, but thankfully the concert was relatively long.

I'd never really heard Dave Burrell before. I was expecting something of a free jazz blow-out, but that's not at all what happened. Instead, Burrell made the old-fashioned seem daring.

I wasn't too taken with Michael Formanek's sound, that I found rather thin and twangy, but otherwise he ably complemented all registers of Burrell's playing. Opinions within the BFJG (see below) on Guillermo Brown were mixed. I thought he did fine, following the leader, but bringing a lot of variety, from reggae to Art Blakey rolls to intricate clamour, and always orchestrated deftly.

Burrell often brought together slow, old-timey stride and back-of-the-hand-dragged-along-the-keyboard explosions, one emerging from the other (kind of like what he does on Blasé's "Sophisticated Lady"). It's a cool effect and I liked it, but by the end I also found it a little too systematic and strictly-policed: during the freer sections Brown always made sure to react to the first signs of the return to the theme. Interestingly, this stride-to-free playing mostly side-stepped modern jazz harmony, preferring to sprinkle piquant dissonance over a solid base, as on "Expansion." The one tune that did go into that Hancock/Corea-era kind of harmony was rather boring, actually.

The highlight of the show was a version of "Autumn Leaves" that recalled Hank Jones's playing on the classic Cannonball/Miles version. Burrell began alone, teasing the melody out of impressionistic swirls and then the trio trio ascended into a rarefied ether by being hauntingly quiet. Earlier, on "Cool Reception," Burrell had played some exquisitely distilled, elegant blues, and "Autumn Leaves" further spelled out his jazz piano lineage.

Of his originals, "Downfall" was the most interesting and cinematic. A stabbing, middle-register ostinato, a bass-register vamp and Brown's light, skittering break-beat created an unsettled mood, before collapsing into a cloudy rumble at the bottom of the keyboard. A brief flight of panic was squashed by a martial snare drum pattern and the inital elements returned. Burrell had introduced the piece by saying that it "was written around the time of 9/11." The parallels were clear.

Afterwards, I met up with the Brussels Free Jazz Gang (of which I consider myself a junior member) and met be.jazz reader Tony (hopefully we'll get to talk more next time!). We ate and walked over to the Damberd, where they wanted to see another concert (which I didn't stay for). Keep an eye on the mouth-watering schedule, especially the William Parker/Hamid Drake duo on 30/10.