Narada Burton Greene has been a part of the new improvisation music scene for so many years, he has been such a singular presence within it, he practically has become an institution of one. The Burton Greene of today is flourishing, a pianist-composer-improviser of many facets, a creator who thrives in his embodiment of tradition and change, freedom and structure, the past and the future.
Or so it seems to me as I listen to his solo performance Live at Kerrytown House (No Business NBCD 39).
Maestro Greene is like a coral island, each piece of what it is to be Burton Greene remains, the earlier conjoining with successive waves of later developments, nothing left behind but everything coming to bear on the present now of what he plays today.
So on this solo set you hear some of the "free" elements of early Greene, the more composed avant elements, the expressively improvised tonalities, melodic originality, harmonic movement, a hint of stride and bop, all a part of who Burton Greene is today.
It is no-frills Burton Greene, an essentialist pairing down that is decidedly NOT generic. He sounds satisfyingly, undeniably like himself. Unpredictable, not reducible to a set of influences because he has gone his own way all this time. And here he is, in the present-day, giving us almost 80 minutes of who he is.
It might surprise even the most well-versed Greene aficionado. He goes to places unexpected at times, but he brings it all together for us in the end, in the middle, the beginning.
This is serious music that lifts you up and sets you down in another place. Each segment hits you like a wave on the beach, ever different, no two exactly alike, but once you know what's coming (or rather you know you don't know) it gives you musical satisfaction.
This isn't a summing up, for there is no doubt much more to come. It is a summing in, a faithful portrait of part of who Burton Greene is today.
So listen and I think it will put you someplace nice.