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Dave Burrell


Distinguished composer-pianist Dave Burrell is an African-American 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.

Dave and his parents moved from Harlem, New York to Hawaii in 1946.  After majoring in music at the University of Hawaii, he enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts graduating with degrees in composition/arranging and performance in 1965. He moved back 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 alto tenor saxophonist Marion Brown, and tenor saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp.

Burrell’s Jazz Opera Windward Passages, written in collaboration with Swedish-born poet librettist 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.  Dave Burrell and the Ararat Orchestra performed excerpts of his jazz opera Windward Passages at Novara Festival, Italy on January 20, 2018.

As a composer–in-residence at Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, commissions include “Look Again” – African-American History is American History; Bill of Sale for a Slave (2007); Syllables of the Poetry of Marianne Moore (2008); Western Extension of the United States of America 1811 (2009).    In 2010 Burrell launched a 5-year project at the Rosenbach, American Civil War: 1861-1865. Portraits of Civil War Heroes  (2011); Civilians During War Time (2012) and Turning Point with guest trombonist Steve Swell (2013). A live performance CD, Turning Point (NoBusiness Records was released to great critical acclaim in 2015). Listening to Lincoln (2014) and Ode to a Prairie Lawyer (2015) followed with guest soprano Veronica Chapman-Smith and lyricist Monika Larsson.

Burrell and Larsson were artists-in-residence at Filarmonica Laudamo in Sicily, Italy that culminated in a live performance at Teatro Messina with soprano Veronica Cardullo and the Creative Orchestra: American Civil War: 1861-1865: Part V. Burrell’s American Civil War-project is now being developed into a full-length suite:  From Emancipation to Assassination, arranged for a mixture of piano, voice and guest Soloists. A current work-in-progress, Variations: Full-Blown Rhapsody premiered at the New York-based Vision 23 Festival where Dave Burrell received a Life-Time Achievement Award on May 23, 2018.

Burrell wrote an original score to Louis Massiah’s award-winning documentary WEB DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices (1996), Oscar Micheaux’s 1925 silent black and white film Body and Soul featured on his High Two release, Momentum (2006).  Dave Burrell and Leena Conquest appear in Frank Cassenti’s documentary Billy Holiday Forever (Paris, France 2012), and in the jazz documentary by Tom Surgal, Fire Music, that premiered at the Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City (2018).

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 the Steinway Artist Roster (www.Steinway.com) in 2007.

Dave Burrell Quintet at Vision Festival 23

Dave Burrell – piano
Kidd Jordan – tenor sax
James Brandon Lewis – tenor sax
William Parker – bass
Andrew Cyrille – piano

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