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Nothing, Knowing
Ice
Wednesday
August 31, 2005

Just out and just off the radar is jazz combo the Greg Burk Trio’s latest creation, Nothing, Knowing, an intricately exploratory effort featuring journeyman rhythm section mates Steve Swallow (bass) and Bob Moses (drums). The CD on Chicago-based indie 482 Music, with its abstract, contemplative sound and distinctive, minimalist artwork, recalls some of the ECM label’s classic trio releases from Keith Jarrett, Marilyn Crispell and Mal Waldron.

But comparisons end there, as Burk and company indulge in their own unique creative whirlwind that straddles post-bop inventions and what might be termed avant-garde sound collages, all the while never losing touch with the strong melodic sense of song that runs throughout each of Burk’s compositions. As the pianist relates in the CD’s liner notes, "Moving from freedom to form and back to freedom is a challenge I embrace. In the moments of discovery that this process brings about, the world expands to infinity and the familiar becomes fascinating…"

In less capable hands, those words may sound a bit vague or esoteric, but the trio manages to capture the listener’s attention throughout the nine tracks, from the light, sparkling playfulness of "Operetta" to the mysterious, foreboding tones that inform the traditional-African-influenced "Borneo Dreaming." The record’s centerpiece is a sprawling, nearly-20-minute epic, "Truth Be Told," which almost dissolves completely into abstraction, if only for the impressive cohesive communication of the players. On the flip side, the sweet and tuneful "Big Bird" sounds like it flew straight out of some lost Great American Songbook.

While the New England Conservatory-trained Burk is a relative newcomer to the scene, issuing his solo debut Progressions and Digressions in 2001, the bassist and drummer are no strangers to this eclectic mix of playing, and in fact have played with many of jazz’s leading lights since the mid-’60s. Moses has drummed up gigs with the likes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton and Jack DeJohnette, while Swallow has lent his innovative electric bass tone to ensembles led by Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Paul and Carla Bley and Jimmy Giuffre.

482 Music boasts an impressive roster of other left-field improvisers as well, with past releases fronted by Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum and various members of the Vandermark 5, Chicago Underground Duo/Trio and hallowed Chicago jazz institution the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). The label’s next release will be drummer/composer/bandleader Harris Eisenstadt’s The Soul and Gone on October 11, featuring Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker.

Greg Camphire
New Release Editor

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