Photo: Dave Burrell | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.
The next show will air on Sunday, May 13, 2018 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast presents an interview with pianist and composer Dave Burrell, who will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 2018 Vision Fest.
Distinguished composer-pianist Dave Burrell is a performing artist of singular stature on the international contemporary music scene. His dynamic compositions, with blues and gospel roots recall the tradition of Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson and Duke Ellington, as well avant garde composers Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. After majoring in music at the University of Hawaii, he enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts in 1961. After graduating with degrees in composition/arranging and performance in 1965, he moved to New York City, where he quickly established himself as one of the most innovative and original pianists, collaborating with the emerging leaders in contemporary jazz, joining the groups of tenor saxophonists Marion Brown, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp.
Burrell’s Jazz Opera Windward Passages, written in collaboration with Swedish-born poet/lyricist Monika Larsson, blends opera voices with world class jazz instrumentalists, a 21-piece jazz opera orchestra, dancers and chorus. Seldom has the classically trained voice played such a unique improvising roll as in this important, ground-breaking endeavor. Burrell’s dance drama, Holy Smoke, with blue-print by Monika Larsson, is being developed for contemporary dance. La Vie de Boheme, Burrell’s arrangement of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, recorded on BYG Records, France in 1969, was presented at the Bordeaux Jazz Festival in France in 2008.
Dave Burrell appears regularly on national and international radio broadcasts, including NPR’s Bi-Centennial Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, Dr. Jazz; Duke Ellington’s Centennial Duke and the Piano; Louis Armstrong’s The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong, and Leonard Bernstein: An American Life. Dave Burrell was recently featured on NPR’s nationally syndicated show Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross. Burrell performed the music of Jelly Roll Morton solo piano The Lomax Legacy: Folklore in a Globalizing Century symposium, along with jazz author and scholar John Szwed, presented by American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress and at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington, D.C. In 2009, RAI, Italy aired “Dave Burrell Plays His Songs featuring singer Leena Conquest and lyricist Monika Larsson” on internet radio.
As a musician in-residence at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Dave Burrell was commissioned to write music for “Look Again” – African-American History is American History – in 2007: Bill of Sale for a Slave.
His second commission at the Rosenbach, Syllables of the Poetry of Marianne Moore, in duet with bassist Michael Formanek, premiered in February, 2008. His third commission at the museum, Western Extention of the United States of America (1811 – Astoria), premiered in duo with bassist Michael Formanek on September 9, 2009.
Burrell wrote an original score to Oscar Micheaux’s silent black and white film Body and Soul (1925). Some of the music is featured on Burrell’s Db3’s CD Momentum (High Two Records , 2006). Amulet Records released Consequences (2007) featuring Dave Burrell and percussionist Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin and Wood). Burrell’s project, Dave Burrell Plays the Burrell/Larsson Songbook, featuring jazz singer Leena Conquest continues to tour in Europe including Italy, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic and France. RAI Trade, Italy is releasing a CD, a duo recording with Dave and Leena in 2009.
During the last 30 years Dave Burrell has appeared on over 115 recordings, 30 under his own name, (High, High Two, Echo, La Vie de Boheme, After Love, In-Sanity, Only Me, Dreams, Black Spring, Lush Life, Round Midnight, Teardrops for Jimmy, Windward Passages, Daybreak, Brother to Brother, In Concert, Jelly Roll Joys, Esquisses for a Walk, Live at Caramoor, Changes and Chanses, Recital, Expansion, Consequences, Margy Pargy, and Momentum)
Burrell is renowned for his pivotal recordings with tenor saxophonists Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Marion Brown, David Murray, Beaver Harris, Grachan Moncur, Sunny Murray, Bob Stewart, and most recently William Parker.
A frequent lecturer, Burrell’s Master Classes include Strasbourg Conservatory, Tremblay Conservatory (Paris), Conservatoire Municipal (Paris), Guildhall School of Music and Dance (London), New York University, Queens College, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, Duquesne University School of Music, Pennsylvania, Bard College, New York, Brandeis University, Massachusetts, Rice University, Houston, Texas, DePauw University, Indiana, Columbia University, New York City and Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Recent commissions include Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, and Whitney Museum, New York City.
Dave Burrell is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including National Endowment for the Arts, Philadelphia Music Foundation, William J. Cooper Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Pennsylvania State Council on the Arts, MidAtlantic Foundation, John Garcia Gensel Award, and the Pew Fellowship in Jazz Composition.
Dave Burrell joined Steinway’s Artist Roster in 2007.
(Bio adapted from Burrell’s website.)
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Dave Burrell will be this year’s recipient of Vision Fest’s lifetime achievement award on the May 23 opening night at Roulette and will play in three different combos including a composition paying tribute to the Harlem Renaissance and a reunion with saxophonist Archie Shepp.
Watch Burrell play with frequent collaborators William Parker, Kidd Jordan, Hamiet Blueitt, and William Hooker at the 2011 Vision Festival.
Watch Burrell perform “Leo” with Rashied Ali’s quartet in this 1972 live clip.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman College in the City University of New York system.