Pianist/composer Burton Greene was/is one of the First Wave of Downtown NYC's avant garde/free jazz scene in the 1960s. He has played/recorded with Marion Brown, Alan Silva, Patty Waters and Pharoah Sanders, and was recorded on the legendary ESP Disk label (and a really rare one for Columbia!). For the past several years has been living and working in Amsterdam, both solo and with Klezmokum. Klezmokum is an ensemble - ranging from four to seven players - that combines loose-limbed, creative jazz with traditional and contemporary klezmer. (For those unfamiliar, a capsule what-it-is: klezmer, like Western Swing, is a fusion music - East European Sephardic/Jewish folk melodies and rhythms meet limber jazz improvisation.) Since Greene doesn't get to the US much, so every appearance is an event.
For this brief NYC stand, Greene assembled a localized version of Klezmokum: frequent collaborator Perry Robinson on clarinet; Kevin Norton on drums; and the new guy that fit like a glove, Jay Rozen on tuba. Burton's style isn't easy to pin down, but it's easy to listen to - he has some of the percussiveness of Cecil Taylor and the genial lyricism of Dave Brubeck (himself a percussive key-man), George Shearing and Vince Guaraldi, informed and infused with the exotic richness of the melodies of his Rumanian/Jewish ancestry. Robinson wailed with the precision of Artie Shaw and the unfettered freedom of both Pee Wee Russell and John Coltrane. Rozen was both the "bass" and another horn voice, providing a bottom for the music and snortin' up a storm on that deep horn. Kevin Norton is, as usual, Mr. Rhythm, fashioning great crashes of propulsive percussion that Kenny Clarke (and Milford Graves!) of which would no doubt approve. Most of their book consisted of trad East European melodies swung out to the stratosphere, with love and reverence - but not TOO much reverence, that would be groosly unfair. This Ancient Jewish Music ain't no museum piece to be tip-toed around - Klezmokum is NOW, baby, taking the Bar Mitzvah to the outer limits...but don't worry, they'll stop at the corner deli before escaping the Earth's gravity. SPECIAL NOTE: for those in the NYC vicinity, Burton Greene and Mark Dresser will be performing at Roulette, 228 W. Broadway, Sunday Oct. 21, 2001 8:30 PM. Be there - aloha. (Burton Greene has discs available on the CIMP and Cadence labels; Klezmokum on the Dutch BVHaast label.)