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Dave Burrell's Full Blown Trio - Expansion

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Artist: Dave Burrell's Full Blown Trio

Album: Expansion

Label: High Two

Review date: Aug. 4, 2004

There’s a general consensus that a glut of recordings currently clogs the creative improvised music scene. Technology makes it possible for anyone to lay tracks down and press there own albums in whatever quantity desired. CDRs and mp3s now rival their factory-bred brethren as a viable means of getting the word out about one’s sounds. In light of all these newfangled variables it’s easy to forget how precious a recording date can be. Take Dave Burell. The pianist hasn’t found himself in the driver’s seat on a session in nearly a decade save for Recital (2001), a duo session with bassist Tyrone Brown for CIMP. Sure, there have been a handful of sideman gigs over the intervening years with heavy hitters like Archie Shepp, David Murray, Odean Pope and others, but steady studio gigs have largely eluded him.

This undeserved breach in an otherwise exemplary discography gains some much needed caulking with Expansion; a program featuring Burrell’s working trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Andrew Cyrille. Seven cuts, including six from the pianist’s quill along with a swinging solo reading of Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful” brimming with logic and brio comprise the package. Burrell’s storied penchant for blending early jazz forms like stride and swing with freer leaning improvisation flavors the majority of pieces. The opening title track wastes no time in reconciling the seemingly incongruous camps as stomping chords ping-pong against a fractured beat of sliding syncopations. Cyrille switches to ticking off a Twilight Zone time signature on cymbal and snare rim while Parker punches and plucks his strings straight up the middle.

Elsewhere on “Double Heartbeat” Burrell’s touch is nimble and supple, but can turn stentorian and recalcitrant instantly. Tracing an extended trail of choppy clusters atop a percolating tide from his partners, the concentrated focus is almost palpable. For the most part, Parker and Cyrille do a fine job supplying support, though there are moments where each is audibly reticent in embracing the more structured facets of Burrell’s compositions. The bassist’s florid arco swathes on “Cryin’ Out Loud” – a track realized sans Cyrille – seem a shade too melodramatic at first, but soon gain a clarity and clout through targeted pathos.

Parker loses some steam on the final cut “Coup D’Etat,” tugging out a walking line that bears little allegiance to the jaunty block chords patterned by the leader or the stuttering snare and high-hat beats built by Cyrille. It’s an odd disconnect and a bit disconcerting as album capstone, but the preceding music more than compensates. High Two’s wise decision to finance Burrell’s grossly overdue return as a leader deserves strident commendation. With the seed now properly planted a follow-up by this trio or another of Burrell’s ensembles is hopefully not far from fruition.

By Derek Taylor

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