Brass tacks: a duo record between pianist Greg Burk and
percussionist Vicente Lebron. Tracks combine or alternate between
unconventional, sometimes studio-manipulated interpretations of Bach’s First Invention – one of the most famous pieces in the European repertoire – and Afro-Caribbean percussion vignettes.
Genesis: Burk and Lebron played together in the Either/Orchestra rhythm section from 1999 through 2005, with tours of the US, Russia, Ethiopia, Italy, Uganda and three albums. Burk is “a startlingly original improviser, [a rising pianist who] straddles a confluence of traditions, seamlessly balancing the spontaneity of free jazz with the discpline of mainstream conventions” (Troy Collins, Allaboutjazz). Lebron is a conguero, born in the Dominican Republic and living in the US for most of his life, who is widely known and beloved on the Boston Latin and jazz scene for his earthy, intuitive approach to rhythm and his outsized personality.
As a piano practice project, Burk learned the First Invention in all 12 keys - the way that many jazz musicians learn standard tunes and licks. He then learned to play the two parts in different keys with his left and right hands. With a firm grip on the material, he went into the studio and overdubbed it in all the keys, and many other ways, yielding the material for a series of experiments in mixing, looping and reversing the recordings. The studio and improvisational variations sometimes dismantle the musical structure of the Invention, sometimes make the piano sound not like a piano at all, sometime sound like what you imagine you’d hear if you were losing your mind. (Throwing in a little Moog doesn’t hurt on that account.)
Lebron, unlike the highly trained former Berklee instructor Burk, has very little formal education. Yes without the benefit of classroom, he is a brilliant orchestrator of percussion, using the overdubbing capabilities of the recording studio as a score pad. Burk brought Lebron into the recording studio and let him do his thing, creating a good handful of tracks.
Fast forward about five years: Burk is living in Rome with his Italian wife and young daughters, settled into gigging with various international groups, making records with such luminaries as Steve Swallow and John Tchicai. He still has these two unreleased recording sessions: the First Invention experiment and the percussion overdub grooves. Neither one adds up to quite an album...but...if combined..it’s a crazy idea: but it just might be crazy enough to work!
Pop this into your stereo and listen...just go with it: there’s wonderful music here, some
uncannily familiar and some like nothing you’ve ever heard. It’s a dream. It’s naive and sophisticated. It’s never predictable.
Put it on for people and observe as they start to hear what it’s about.
Audition the tracks. Play it on your radio show -
take a chance, the cuts are short. You’ll get phones.
Use the percussion pieces as beds.
Be creative with it.
Review it, blog it, expose it. Does it work for you?
It made Carla Bley laugh out loud.