Like many great musicians, jazz pianist Dave Burrell has paid a price for refusing to work within a single category. He first emerged in the late 60s, playing intense energy music with the likes of Archie Shepp, Giuseppi Logan, and Marion Brown; his style combined the dense clusters of Cecil Taylor with deeply lyrical improvisation. But while most of his free-jazz contemporaries had a solid grounding in early jazz history, Burrell was one of the few who actively pursued an interest in ragtime and stride. While he hasn't recorded much over the last three decades (although he's regularly appeared as a sideman with reedist David Murray), most of his output has straddled this divide between past and present. On Windward Passages (Hat Art, 1979), a solo reading of a jazz opera cowritten with his wife, Monika Larsson, he applies his keen understanding of stride rhythms to modern harmonic constructions; on The Jelly Roll Joys (Gazell, 1991) he explores the music of Jelly Roll Morton and reconstructs classics by John Coltrane and Charlie Parker on a ragtime framework. Burrell visits Chicago even less often than he does the studio, so the local premiere of his current group, the Full-Blown Trio, would be noteworthy even if the lineup weren't so distinguished: William Parker is perhaps the greatest free-jazz bassist on the planet, and sublimely multifaceted drummer Andrew Cyrille can play it straight as easily as he can take it out. On an unreleased live recording made last year with Parker and drummer Rashied Ali, the trio leads off with a Burrell original called "Double Heartbeat," in which a deep, rumbling left-hand piano figure opens up into 50 minutes of rigorous round-robin soloing. Burrell is at his fiery best, attacking bottomy chords with sledgehammer power--there's not a ragtime riff in sight. Of course, with Parker furiously plucking resonant notes, functioning more as a second drummer than a bassist, the pianist can't help but ride the big waves. Cyrille is less explosive than Ali, but he's a stunning colorist and divider of time, and his presence ought to give the music even more depth. This show is presented by the Emerging Improvisers Organization, the folks behind the Sunday jazz series at the Hungry Brain. Wednesday, November 26, 9:30 PM, Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western; 773-296-6024.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.