For most who have heard of him, Dave Burrell is inextricably linked to a time when chaos was king. The 66-year-old pianist plays on some of the New Thing’s most memorable freak-outs—Pharoah Sanders’ Tauhid and Sonny Sharrock’s Black Woman, among others—and his own albums from the same period are almost as notorious. But Burrell never stopped making music. His so-called comeback, 2004’s Expansion, follows decades of albums and concerts. And his follow-up, the new Momentum, shows that Burrell’s art, unlike his reputation, is anything but tethered to the past.
Some of this modernity can be chalked up to Momentum’s bassist and drummer, Michael Formanek and Guillermo E. Brown, both of whom have experience outside of Burrell’s pigeonhole (Formanek with Elvis Costello and Brown with Antipop Consortium and Spring Heel Jack). Brown, especially, brings a sense of the present moment to the song’s rhythms, which mix ride-snappin’ swing with elements of electro-funk and rock. Yet the trio’s leader is no slouch either. A Jelly Roll Morton scholar, Burrell seems to fold just about every kind of jazz into his blocky riffs and loose-yet-melodic themes. Anyone interested in where jazz is heading, as opposed to where it’s been, would do well to take note.