BURTON GREENE – Live At The Woodstock Playhouse 1965


We’re fortunate to be able to enjoy this music today. According to Burton Greene, the tape that contained it has endured a fair share of harsh conditions over the years, with a special mention for dampness. The relatively poor audio quality is not enough to cancel the historical value of the performance, of which three generous chunks are present. Besides the pianist, Rashied Ali on drums, Marion Brown on saxophone and Reggie Johnson on bass play with bright-minded fluency and communicative fervour, the shifting atmospheres elicited by the instrumental relationships contributing to emphasize four sensible talents. For Greene, a chance to “introduce compositional frameworks” in a free-jazz setting which, in this instance, appears permeated of lyricism. Check, as an example, the opening “Tree Theme II”: a somewhat My Favourite Thing-ish tune whose chord progression – in union with the oldness of the recording – instantly induces a sense of nostalgia, the same disheartening feeling experienced when looking at a train running far away from a distance. Besides the ever-perceptible shared energy, “Cluster Quartet II” and, in particular, “Like It Is” also show each player’s ability as soloist, even if the extent of some of the lonely disquisitions occasionally pushes our endurance’s VU meters close to the red area of ennui. Still, these expressions represent a precious, if faded snapshot of a long-gone past. For that, they are quite important.

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