For a veteran with four decades of musical service, Dave Burrell’s discography remains incommensurately small. The High Two label has made strides (pun intended) to rectify the situation, starting in 2004 with Expansion, a trio date that teamed the pianist with the prodigious talents of William Parker and Andrew Cyrille. The public picked up on the album’s pervasive merits and it made more than a few year-end lists as a result. For the follow-up, Burrell makes some key personnel alterations that at first suggest possible steps backwards, but swiftly reveal themselves as sound choices.
Momentum seems a somewhat incongruous title for the set. Most of the disc’s tracks are decidedly dark in mood and slow to build. Only occasionally does Burrell break into a keyboard sprint, preferring instead to let the tunes spool out in stuttery meters that sometimes slow to a crawl. “Downfall” deploys with the inexorable tension of a tightly wound tourniquet, a repeating piano riff riding a series of Shaft-style syncopations from Guillermo E. Brown. “Broken Promise” is even more fractured and ominous, Brown’s brushes caressing skins as Burrell shapes sparse chords that sharpen into teeth-chattering clusters by the end. Here and on the menacing title track the influence of Blue Note-era Andrew Hill is prominent, Michael Formanek’s spidery pizzicato thrums echoing vintage Richard Davis in execution. The dour arco strains that open the dramatic “Fade to Black” let in little tonal light, complementing Burrell’s downcast patterns and Brown’s staccato press rolls before opening up into a loping march in the second half. “4:30 to Atlanta” pantomimes the piston-churning speed of an interstate express train with Brown showing off an energetic rock side and Burrell making artful use of space and silence.
Formanek is better equipped than his predecessor Parker when it comes to the linear swing side of Burrell’s playing as the creeping blues “Cool Reception” attests. He can create an explicit walking pace just as adeptly as a free-floating pulse. That inside/outside ambidextrousness coupled with a stout, string-snapping tone gives the trio just the sort of variable-purpose anchor it needs. Brown was the chief question mark for me prior to spinning the disc. I worried that he would bring the same sort of heavy-handedness present on certain of his forays with David S. Ware, but his varied stickplay and sensitive touch largely allayed my concerns. As with Expansion, there’s a unified feel to the set and the tracks progress from overcast gloom to almost an almost optimistic countenance on the closing new version of “Coup d’Etat”, itself perhaps a bit of musical palmistry presaging the recent electoral reversal. At just under three-quarters of an hour it’s also a welcome exercise in economy, one that makes repeat spins all the more remunerative.
~ Derek TaylorPosted by derek on November 11, 2006 12:19 PM
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