The maturity of an artist is built on how far and how well the artist pursues an idea. For Narada Burton Greene, the musical idea is the one that he is playing at the moment. Although he may have something in mind before he starts a solo concert, like the one at Kerrytown Concert House, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he begins is where he begins and where he ends has a simple resonant conclusion, the seventy-eight minutes in between equivalent of a short evolution.
On Live at Kerrytown House, the music is thematic, tends to be quiet, slightly explosive, adhering to Greene’s sense of humor, lyricism and even romantic melody. He does not play without minor improvisational discords and cantankerous fingerings. For it is with these juxtapositions that Greene maintains the utmost integrity and musicianship. He has collaborated with and arranged compositions by associates, including longtime colleague Silke Röllig. With Röllig, he has created some of the most evocative contemporary piano music that there is.
The miracle of Greene’s music is its never-ending luster. Not one piece in this performance eludes its brightness or demonstrates lack of respect for the instrument he plays.
“Freebop” for Greene implies as much grace as going off an edge; the three versions here are all different yet in some ways very much the same. The intermittent sounds of a couple of the small percussive instruments he carries with him to every performance are a joy to hear: they are brief hiatuses in the currency of the pianistic flow. “Prevailence” and “Greene Mansions” exemplify compositions where the main musical subject acts as an armature off which filigreed vagaries can weave and return, like vines on a trellis.
It is not difficult to detect the language that governs Greene’s playing: the ascending and descending chordal runs or marches; the two-handed chord systems that move up the keyboard from which stream tuneful treble explorations; or the stopping and starting of his process so that he can reassess and re-commence with a possible repetition of ideas.
Greene is no longer interested in smashing things across the piano sounding board as he once was in order to prove that free expression is admissible. Rather, as he knows deeply now, he makes a statement no matter how he portrays the richness of his life, from Chicago to New York to Amsterdam, where he has spent most of his adulthood. His concentration is unswerving; his dedication to his art unabashed.
The sage that he is, as his Yogic name Narada indicates, Burton Greene embraces an essential cultural core in his music. He never flounders and always is pondering the next step, whether that be for a solo or group context. Coming out of a meditative state of solitude or the conviviality of others, Greene is giving us his truth of self.
copyright 2012 Lyn Horton
Freebop the 4th; Tree; Freebop the 1st; Prevailence; Greene Mansions; Little Song; Elevation; Freebop the 6th; Don't Forget the Poet; Get Through It; Space Is Still The Place.