CD review, Power of the Idea by Robert Burke, reviewed by John McBeath
First published by The Australian

power of the idea

Album:  Power of the Idea
Artist:   Robert Burke
Release Date: June 2015
Label:    Jazzahead

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With performers from Monash’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music: Assoc. Professor Robert Burke on saxophone, pianist Professor Paul Grabowsky, plus two lecturers, and adding two of New York’s foremost players this recording can’t fail to exemplify its title to demonstrate all-powerful jazz ideas.

The nine sextet originals – five by Burke – were recorded late in 2014 at Acoustic Recording, Brooklyn, New York, and Burke says he gave no instructions re artistic direction in improvisations; these were connected to the central ideas as a basis of the musical conversation.

Burke’s Mercurochrome opener travels along its irregular theme impelled by Nasheet Waits’s underscoring drum beats before racing sax and Paul Williamson’s high-reaching trumpet begin to wander in free improvisation. They’re soon joined by Grabowsky’s chords, Mark Helias on bass and Jordan Murray’s trombone and then re-joined by Waits’s drums in a forceful solo.

The sole Grabowsky piece, Abandon uses a short piano trio intro ahead of the horns’ theme statement leading into another high register trumpet solo as bass, drums, and the piano’s insistent chords push it along to launch a rough, talkative trombone, and a lengthy energetic drum sequence.

Freebopcom by Murray investigates its title with a post-bop theme from the horns with piano ornamentation transiting into a robustly swinging bass interlude, Burke’s hoarsely investigative tenor, and the piano alternating between a riding flow and atonal chord hits.

This is a ground-breaking collection – complex and adventurous – from four Australian and two US players where the compositions and performances create the illusion that they’ve all been playing together for years.

For just over 24 years I have been a freelance writer, publishing in that time a wide variety of genres: news items, live concert reviews, travel articles, features, personality profiles, and CD and book reviews. I have written for various in-flight magazines, The Adelaide Review, The Republican, The Bulletin, The Australian, The Advertiser, The Melbourne Herald Sun and several regional newspapers. In 1994 I won a national travel-writing prize sponsored by The Australian newspaper, which led to my writing regularly for that paper. Since 2003 I have been jazz critic for The Advertiser and The Australian newspapers, on average contributing weekly to each paper. In 2005 I won a national Jazz Writing Competition sponsored by the Wangaratta Jazz Festival.