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The Low Down on Innovation

In an age of decay, destruction, torment and little evident to save us, it is a blessing to know that in existence is a group of musicians like this trio. Led by top-shelf pianist, Dave Burrell, joined by virtuosos, bassist William Parker and drummer Andrew Cyrille, the Full-Blown Trio performed at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Ma on Friday, Nov. 21.

Two sets were played; the second was a "recap" of the first thus making both sets one. The sets were comprised of the integration of two original compositions by Burrell---DOUBLE HEARTBEAT and EXPANSION. The integration resulted in one continuous brilliant exposition of distinctly different music genres balanced and made meaningful through the juxtaposition.

Burrell’s hands are controlled and steadfast. It is obvious that Burrell has played seemingly forever. It is as if there is nothing that he cannot confidently do on the keyboard. He possesses a passionate consciousness that allows him to move with incredible ease through the keyboard. He manifests a wisdom about his movements and choices which demonstrates his longtime exposure to his musical world, his longtime relationship with his musical world, his longtime ownership of his musical world.

Burrell’s hands are heavily, carefully, naturally disposed, yet, in counterpart, are capable of expressing a delicacy and lyricism that belie the frequent reference to one-two left-handed ragtime chordal rhythm and two-handed open and shut keyboard strutting of a stride piano mode. He is extremely aware of what it takes to move the listener’s soul: he repeats a series of chords not merely seven or eight times, but twenty or thirty times. He constructs a pianistic framework that is tight as a drum but breaks it open like the parting of the Red Sea in a flourish of potential dissonance and conservative wildness of hand over hand interwoven with body motions. He takes the listener to a place that is just as comfortable as the place where the listener started.

Burrell keeps his trio tight to him. But, within the tightness is a balance of sound. Parker and Cyrille in their imitations of Burrell’s phrasing did not release their own methods of playing. They moved organically within the structure of Burrell’s compositions. They played lightly, synchronously, starkly, sometimes with restraint. When the time was appropriate in the flow, Parker and Cyrille broke open their own lines, spread their own wings. What seemed to be the case is that the two interchanged their rhythm-keeping role with Burrell, for he could let Parker and Cyrille go and either become the silent trio member or provide the pulse.

Parker artfully as always bowed, plucked, slapped and even strummed the thick, deepest toned bass strings that I know of; I often wonder if the tones rise out of those strings because of how he plays them or how he tunes them or how they are made. It may be a combination of all three. His attentiveness to the atmosphere, the aura of the trio lets him vibrate naturally with Burrell and Cyrille. Parker is committed to making music work because he believes in it so much that he is it.

Cyrille gently addressed his drumset for a major part of the music. Sometimes, even though the drums could be heard, it was almost as if they were not there. He treated them more percussively than traditionally. At times he would catch the wave of the music produced by Burrell and Parker, or he would crest the wave or actually be the wave. His movements were precise. He tickled the snare, he rumbled the toms, he opened musical doors for the whole trio. When once he soloed, he stood up and played the wall behind him with his sticks, finding the tonality of each square inch he struck; then, he moved the sticks down the wall eventually to reach his seat. He tatted the seat. He sat on his seat. He struck one of the ride cymbals hard and loud and then damped it. His drumming metamorphosed back into the groove.

When the three musicians approached the close, they were charging with adamancy and determination. Both of Burrell’s hands traveled from left to right in a final trill down the keyboard to a high note and flew up in the finishing. The trio snapped shut at once.

The trio is Burrell’s newest project. The trio is full-blown because the musicians can be of no higher caliber. The music is full-blown because Burrell brings to it the experience of a sage, who has been everywhere, but here.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Full-Blown Trio
  • Concert Date: 11/21/2003
  • Subtitle: Dave Burrell's Latest Venture
  • Venue: Iron Horse Music Hall
  • City State Country: Northampton, MA
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