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clifford_thornton

Burton Greene (1937-2021)

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It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the pianist/composer, and my friend, Burton Greene died today in his home of Amsterdam at the age of 84. 

Burton's piano approach ranged from the influences of Horace Silver, Monk and Lennie Tristano to Indian music, Klezmer, and Bartók (he is of Romanian Jewish descent), creating a melodic, meditative, and rhythmically rich stew from which freedom could emerge. Burton recorded prolifically as a leader beginning in 1966 for ESP-Disk', followed by albums on BYG, Columbia (!), Horo, Hat Hut, Circle, Cat Jazz, Button Nose, CIMP/Cadence, NoBusiness, Drimala, Tzadik, and other imprints. Notable appearances include those with Marion Brown, Albert Ayler, Patty Waters, Perry Robinson, Sam Rivers, Byard Lancaster, Alan Silva, Roy Campbell Jr., and Gong, though his work as a soloist and interpreter is also vast.

Despite less recognition than he and his fans might have hoped, he toured Europe and the US into 2019, a true soldier of the road. I got to know Burton in 2004 through interviewing him for the New York City Jazz Record (at that time called All About Jazz New York) and we became good friends -- I was lucky to experience his many stories and ideas through conversations over the phone, email, and in person (he inaugurated our apartment in Brooklyn as the "home for wayward jazz musicians" after staying with us in 2012) and we had hoped to do a festival including his US trio in 2020 until COVID put the kibosh on it. 

I'll forever cherish the friendship and memories as well as the many hours of great music. Rest in Power, Burton.

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RIP, and condolences on your personal loss. Those are always the toughest ones to take.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting man. First met him in Chicago circa 1966 - he was in town visiting family and performing an organ recital IIRC. Last saw him sometime in the last decade (April, 2018 I think) when he was performing in Muskegon, MI.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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7516811536-IMG-0050.jpg

R.I.P.

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Think I will put these on later tonight.

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RIP Burton

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RIP, Burton. Thanks for the music. 

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Rip Mr. Burton Greene. And my condolences to you Clifford.

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I was left with a little gift from Burton a few months ago... my dad, a pianist, and his trio were doing a Zoom listening party for a CD that they were working on, and Burton chimed in to watch/listen and say hello. He enjoyed one of the pieces so much he asked my dad for the lead sheet and recorded it. Burton's version isn't released and I don't know if he intended to put it out (he mentioned he'd like to but I'm not sure of his ultimate plan). I think Burton and my dad have some of the same influences, and as my dad's piano playing and compositions have gotten freer in recent years, the affinity is something I can sense. So I hear a lot of both of them in this rendition of my dad's music... pretty incredible. 

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Very sad to hear he passed away.

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This is sad news. Those ESPs are among my favourites. I have read a few interviews with him in the past and he didn't have an easy life, but there was a lovely quality to him (at least as he comes across on the page).

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Sorry to hear this, Clifford.

Someone whose name I knew more than his music.

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R.I.P .....

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5 hours ago, Д.Д. said:

I like Greene's music a lot, his klezmer projects including (coincidentally, I started listening to Klezmokum's "Le Dor Va Dor" today before I saw this thread). 

Recently bought this one https://balancepointacoustics.bandcamp.com/album/lifes-intense-mystery-mf193-as090 , did not listen to it yet:

a3248523963_10.jpg

yeah, I was at that concert -- great fun!

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Very sad news. Got to know him a bit over the years too, though not nearly to Cliff's extent, and always really dug our interactions. Not to mention his terrific music. Rest easy, sir.

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My condolences, CA. I never interacted with Burton Greene nearly as much as I would like to have, but he seemed a real one. Regardless, his own work had a kind of vision and conceptual coherence that I find really admirable. 

The ESP is stellar, and I'm also very fond of Aquariana and Presenting Burton Greene (though I'm due for a re-listen on all counts). I also really enjoy the 1978 record European Heritage, which I obtained as a blind buy several years ago - it presents a blend of European folk and concert music and free jazz inflections that is pretty singular. Despite the fact that analogous experiments were pretty common at the time, I can't really identify a suitable point of comparison.

I do need to dig deeper into that trio with Damon, too - what I have heard from that album is fantastic. 

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Heard him play live once, at an odd gig in a piano repair shop organized by a friend of mine.  Don't know his recorded work very well.  Seems like he got to pursue his muse and live fully to a pretty good extent.  And left something behind for those who might care to pick it up.  Can't do much more than that.  So thank you and RIP.

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I remember he played around the early 80s with Austrian Avantgard-Jazz Pioneer Fritz Novotny (Reform Art Unit). Burton played one of Novotny´s compositions "Pannonian Flower" and then called Monk´s "Crepuscule with Nelly". 

I didn´t know he was of romanian descendance, I could have talked to him in his language......

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well, he was born and raised in Chicago but his ancestry is Romanian. As far as I know English and some Dutch were his main languages. There's a pretty fascinating story about his trip to Romania in his (wild) autobiography, "Memoirs of a Musical Pesty-Mystic" (Cadence Jazz Books). Seek that volume out and you will be majorly rewarded.

Novotny is pretty interesting as well. I bet that was a good gig.

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A good article. I was surprised to see.on Twitter that Nate Chinen was tweeting about Greene, as I mistakenly assumed that he would not have been on his radar.

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Posted (edited)

That Baraka piece is really a drag. Even at the time I first read it, which was right around when I discovered Burton's ESPs, it seemed totally off. Of course, Burton was invited by Marion and Pharoah -- he'd already worked with Brown and Ayler, and led a quartet with Marion, by the time it went to print.

My impression is that the article hurt Burton's pride more than anything; gigs were nearly impossible to come by for almost everyone at that time in New York. Even labels like ESP were pivoting to psychedelic rock and so forth. He'd planned to go over for just a short while to France, and ended up staying in Holland from ~1970 onward. 

Edited by clifford_thornton

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