European Jazz Jamboree 2009
Burrell's set was as straight up and respectful as one will ever hear the pianist and this material unfortunately it lacked the punch and unpredictability customarily associated with most any of his live performances. Performing solo, he weaved and fused two obvious influences, and whether he was performing one or the other, both shone through in his playing. As he said between pieces"I like to put the Ellington in the Monk and Monk in the Ellington," revealing the very common connection between them. What ensued leaned a bit much on the tasteful sidenot present were those unexpected, sometimes shocking out of time flourishes Burrell usually drums forth out of thin air. Almost over-respectful in his performance (which was especially unusual being the EJJ offers the perfect stage for a more typical Burrell set where the piano's ivories take a pounding and its strings get more than a workout at the drop of a hat), his rendition of "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" was played as a piano-roll, with an ever- dancing left hand exclusively dedicated to rhythmic chords and thrown in Monk-isms. Belated notes snuck in just in the nick of time, perhaps a perceived "afterthought just before the time was blown" as Burrell described what is commonly acknowledged as one of Monk's greatest attributes. "In A Sentimental Mood" was given a soft lyrical rendition, rather than Burrell's more forceful rhythmic approach, showing he can cover both bases with equal authority. And his performances of Monk's "Blue Monk" and "Straight No Chaser" each lacked the gusto and verve one would hope a player like Burrell would have exploited and used as a foundation to blast through. All that said, it was certainly a pleasurable set, as it always is to hear one of the masters of this music.
A final non-tribute and the second of two Americans headliners was pianist/keyboardist Uri Caine and his Bedrock Trio. Featuring Timne Lefebvre (electric bass), Zach Danzinger (drums) and guestvocalist Barbara Walker, a new sonic and admittedly discomforting sensation rang through this group's set that hadn't at any other. The plugged in aspect (electric bass and keyboards), in addition to the blues/gospel belting vocals of Walker, were simply too off-putting and out of place, especially in the context of the EJJ programming. The local crowd seemed to have been hipped to this expected inconsistency, and consequently a perhaps not so surprising noticeably low turnout was in attendance to hear this set at Babylon Kino.
Laurence Donohue-Greene (other than Rolf Kuhn by Mehmet Dedeoglu)