Greg Burk: Simple Joys

American pianist resident in Rome convenes quintet for undiluted straightahead session replete with attractive, melodic themes and satisfying solos

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The new CD by American-in-Rome Greg Burk is expanded into a quintet following his last, a trio with piano, bass and drums. Added to the rhythm players are Daniele Tittarelli, an alto and soprano soloist with a big, expansive sound and Andrea Milinari on guitar.

Similar in general sound and approach to the previous trio outing this session proves Berk to be an original stylist on piano with a penchant for bold, challenging charts that demand that he and the soloists improvise freely and come up with fresh, newly minted lines. Greg’s touch can be expansive on chordal excursions, but he sounds equally inventive and at home with shimmering single lines and when backing other soloists with a delicate touch at the keyboard.

Simple Joys, the title track is just that. It’s light and melodic, with Tittarelli and the leader contributing flowing solo lines. Morning Ashes is a slow, sombre ballad in a very different mood. Every Little Thing In the World begins with a percussive foray from drummer Santiago and has a bright guitar solo from Molinari. The emphasis here, as on all these selections, appears to be on closely integrated improvisations from the horns and bassist Ferrazza.

All the compositions except one are by Burk and are attractive, melodic themes that the musicians explore and expand on. The exception is Take Me Away, written by drummer Santiago, where he plays a percussive flourish to begin and is prominent in keeping the piece flowing smoothly. At mostly slow or slow to medium tempo it gives plenty of room and time for each soloist to express himself fully.

Tittarelli has a pure sound on alto sax, suggesting European classical music more than jazz but if he lacks a degree of blues styling, he makes up for it with imaginative improvised solos throughout. The combo is very well integrated and Burk himself is an always intriguing soloist on piano. He switches to Fender Rhodes on Santiago’s Take Me Away.

At a time when much new jazz is diluted, altered or given a rock or fusion treatment it is good to hear a combo playing new material in a straightahead contemporary jazz fashion.

Discography
Simple Joys; Morning Ashes; Every Little Thing In The World; All At Once; Big Bird; Violet; Take Me Away; Tomorrow Is Today; Sequoia Song (55.15)
Burk (p, kyb); Daniele Tittarelli (as, ss); Andrea Molinari (elg); Jacopo Ferrazza (b); Reinald Santiago (d). Rome, Italy, no dates listed.
Tonos Records