With this sweeping solo piano recital, As a River, Greg Burk further solidifies his unique reputation as a piano virtuoso as well as gives notice that he is essentially an experimental composer of the first order. He also is clearly exploiting the construction of the instrument’s keyboard by exploring its timbre through various interesting techniques not the least of which is seemingly extending both the meaning and spectral range of its dynamics. Some of this is done through an almost unrelenting use of the sustaining pedal sometimes seeming to lift his foot off it only to punctuate longs sequences with the use of the damper. Thus he gives new meaning to the words fortissimo and pianissimo. Further Mr Burk makes very interesting use of the black keys evoking their reinvention by Black American composers in the composition of Spirituals, the harmonies of which were written almost completely on these keys. “One Day” is a fine example of the suggestion of this mode.
Moreover, the repertoire on this album makes no attempt to do so, it still seems to suggest that Mr Burk has successfully extended the range of the piano beyond its seven octaves. And in his masterful use of fingering Mr Burk also puts the heavily felted hammers to breathtaking use to create an extended tonal palette. This together with his intervallic leaps, cascades of notes in elliptical arpeggios and liquid glissandos Mr Burk reveals himself at his best, often displaying pianism that is light and subtle in touch, completely attuned the music’s quiet; then busy charm combined with the quirky ebb and flow of its rhythms. All of this becomes more evident as we get deeper into the recording between the two songs, “The Slow Hello” and “The Slow Goodbye”.
Speaking of those titles (not bookends, by the way; as there is music before and after), these set the stage for what one is to listen to and the songs themselves unfold rich in Romantic imagery and allusion. The considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and improvisation, of exploration, individuality and tradition – both Classical and Jazz – is impressively maintained throughout. The recorded sound – which is seemingly close-microphoned – balances detail and warmth and this makes for an album that is very impressive and desirable from end to end, by a pianist of whom we should hear more – much more – in future.
Track list – 1: One Day; 2: Five Petals; 3: Sun Salutation; 4: As a River; 5: Radiant Heart Blossom; 6: The Slow Hello; 7: The Union; 8: Confluence of Color; 9: Serena Al Telefono; 10: Into the Rapids; 11: Love Wins; 12: Beyond the Bend; 13: The Slow Goodbye; 14: Rivers to Tears; 15: Sequoia Song
Personnel – Greg Burk: piano
Released – 2019
Label – Tonos Records
Runtime – 1:02:43