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