The opening track of RECITAL (a 2000 CIMP recording with bassist, Tyrone Brown), NEVER LET ME GO, reveals more about Burrell in 8 minutes 50 seconds than one can usually discern from years of exposure to a man’s music. In that track, every single note that Burrell plays on the keyboard is really played, not just hit, but felt, touched, clutched, caressed with his heart and the intention to translate that feeling to the listener.
Burrell epitomizes the role of lover of his art; he has a history of playing piano in several genres. He can stretch the solid foundation that his fingers have mapped on the keyboard to limits that he would never have known at the beginning of his gestural education.
In RECITAL, the music is a balanced mixture of an excruciating lyricism, prolonged tunefulness, a reflection of stride chordal structure, a constantly shifting rhythmic treatment of melody, and stepping out of concord whereby Burrell’s fingers fly with a perhaps dissonant but recollectively brave confidence through the keys...all of them. The breadth of the sound he can access is completely satisfying because it is so differentiated that listening to an entire recording is pleasing and necessary to the ear. A relegation to sameness does not exist. The music moves and never lets you go.
LIVE AT CARAMOOR is a solo recording made at the Caramoor Jazz Festival in Katonah, New York and was released by Sonoris in 2001. The first track on this recording is a composition by Burrell entitled THE BOX. This piece is yet another introduction to the precision of the music that continues throughout. The mere title suggests that the box is what Burrell is going to leave to explore the density of his pianistic eloquence. Every sound he produces, even in the hiatuses when his fingers linger over the keys before landing on them, is a sound in which to travel in the abstraction of its wavelength.
Burrell unveils, however he can, the juxtaposition of one "style" next to another, thereby rendering his honed playing styleless---- rich with texture and substance, a music that nearly becomes aural painting. Within each piece, he coalesces a story of his lifetime within certain limits of counted time. A slight melancholy will place what is heard indelibly in memory. Even when he goes off into a never never land with scalar runs and tremolos and flourishes that are without measure, or repeats chords and trills that have a half-life of their own in order to establish a sense of magnanimous, boundless gesture that can be played only once, the listener will return again and again to the music to jostle the memory, to relive the evocative moments that only Burrell can discover and leave behind.
(Dave Burrell can also be heard with Tyrone Brown on VISION FEST/ VISION LIVE on Thirsty Ear Records, 2003.)