Born: June 24, 1969 Primary Instrument: Piano
Burk, while still relatively young, has all the makings of a musical giant, writes AllAboutJazz.com Senior Editor John Kelman. Critics have called his music mesmerizing (Andrew Lindemann Malone, JazzTimes), inquiring and uncomplacent (Nate Dorward, Cadence), and explosive and lyrical at the same time (Bill Shoemaker, PointofDeparture.org).
The pianist/composer/educator has lived and worked all over the world, performing and recording with luminaries such as Jerry Bergonzi, Gerald Cleaver, the Either/Orchestra, Garrison Fewell, George Garzone, Michel Lambert, Dave Liebman, Bob Moses, Rufus Reid, Steve Swallow and John Tchicai. Since moving from Boston to Rome three years ago, he has worked extensively on the European jazz scene, performing at dozens of festivals and presenting workshops all across Italy.
Greg grew up in a culturally diverse and musical household. His father, Dennis Burk, was an internationally active conductor and the son of Russian and Polish immigrants. Greg's mother, Giovanna Collonelli, was a singer and linguist who came to the U.S. in her 20's. In her native Italy, she was a trained opera singer and winner of a national competition to study at La Scala in Milan. Greg began studying piano at age six with his grandmother, Billie Endervelt, a classically trained pianist and improviser who accompanied silent movies in her youth.
At 15, Greg discovered jazz and by 16 he was working professionally, playing solo gigs and in a group with some friends. Before leaving high school, his group performed at DownBeat's Musicfest in Chicago, where Greg was awarded outstanding soloist. His decision to become a professional musician was solidified as a teenager when friend and Detroit-based bassist Rodney Whittaker took him to hear and sit in with multiple generations of musicians.
As a music composition student at UMASS Amherst, Greg was fortunate to have Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp as teachers. Lateef's approach to teaching improvisation/composition was as organic and spiritual as it was systematic and disciplined, Greg remembers. This approach allowed me to cultivate his ideas freely while tempering them with form and specific materials. Shepp's teaching was more hands-on and involved playing Bird and Ellington tunes each week.
With composer/bassist Sal Macchia, Greg's studies included aural training, orchestration and composition. He finished his degree at the University of Michigan, where he received a Bachelor's Degree in English and Music. After graduation, Greg settled in Bratislava, Slovakia, from which he toured throughout Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, and Italy, appearing in clubs, at festivals, and on radio and television.
A year later, Greg moved back to Michigan where he found a fertile environment for growth in the dynamic musical climate of Detroit with its diverse mix of genres, venues, and generations of musicians. In Detroit he worked with veterans Larry Smith, Bobby Battle, Donald Walden, George Goldsmith, the Graystone Big Band, Francisco Mora, Steve Wood, Roy Brooks, and Jaribu Shahid, as well as blossoming contemporaries like Gerald Cleaver, Mark Hynes, Vince Chandler, Mike Graye, James Carter, Cassius Richmond, Rodney Whittaker, and Dwight Adams.
At 25, Greg moved to Boston and enrolled at New England Conservatory (NEC), where he earned a Master's Degree in Jazz Studies, having studied composition with George Russell and piano with Danilo Perez and Paul Bley. Russell's concept had a prof ound impact on Greg's musical thinking, as did Bley's open approach to improvisation. He also had the opportunity to play as a student with Curtis Fuller, Sam Rivers, Cecil McBee and the George Russell Big Band. Greg credits the combination of this progressive education with the dues he paid playing bebop in Detroit as the catalyst for creating his own inside/ outside approach to music.
After earning his Master's, Greg continued to live in Boston, working as an in-demand sideman with notable musicians like Jerry Bergonzi, Garrison Fewell, Steve Grossman, Benny Golson, Nick Goumas, Bob Moses, and others. He also joined the Grammy-nominated Either/ Orchestra, appearing on two of the group's recordings, Afro-Cubism and Neo-Modernism, and touring the U.S., Italy, Russia and Ethiopia.
In addition to his consistent sideman work, Greg has recorded six CDs as a leader, including his latest release, Ivy Trio (482 Music), coming in November 2007. He lives outside of Rome with his wife Serena and two daughters, Sonia and Maia.
--Greg Burk, LA Weekly
Burk's touch on the piano remains confident and even, his statements being
made with proficiency
and concision and without overstatement.
--Bill Donaldson, Cadence
With this release, Burk displays a penchant for pursuing lushly melodic
themes interspersed with a
distinct sense of poise to complement his altogether laudable faculties.
Simply put, there's a lot of
goodness going on here, as the pianist bobs, weaves, and dances atop the
rhythm section's bouncy
swing grooves. Listeners can look forward to hearing more from this
--Glenn Astarita, All Music Guide
Why don't more ensembles try to unite the spontaneity of free jazz with the
discipline of straightahead,
as the Greg Burk Quartet does on Carpe Momentum (Soul Note)?
Probably because it's really
hard. Nevertheless, pianist/composer Burk has found a way to write pieces
that incorporate elements of
both, and he and his bandmates Jerry Bergonzi (saxophones), Jonathan
Robinson (bass), and Gerald
Cleaver (drums) have found a way to play them brilliantly...Carpe
Momentum is mesmerizing
from the get-go.
--Andrew Lindemann Malone, JazzTimes
Greg Burk comes along for the third time as leader with Nothing,
Knowing and proves beyond
any shade of doubt that he has the distinct ability to turn a tune into an
exciting and imaginative
--Jerry D'Souza, AllAboutJazz.com
This program definitely keeps one guessing, for Burk is difficult to easily
categorize as anything but a
creative jazz musician. His interplay with his sidemen is nearly telepathic at
times (they all have big
ears) and they consistently shift musical directions and share thoughts
together. Listeners who enjoy
explorative and passionate jazz improvising will definitely want this
--Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
Technically, Burk is a complete pianist, and he’s intellectually curious
enough to exploit the
instrument’s total sound-making capacity.
--Chris Kelsey, JazzTimes
In the end, this very moving music compels introspection as we watch and
listen while Burk brings us
into intimate contact with his soul, both human and musical.
--Budd Kopman, AllAboutJazz.com
Beauty remains at the top of his list, as Burk invents tone poems that cast
connotations far and wide. The delicate touch of his keyboard and the care
with which he operates the
pedals allow Burk to communicate in a manner that we can all understand
--Jim Santella, Cadence