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Reviews of Faraway
Throughout Faraway, vibraphonist Rusty Burge and pianist Steve Allee are so complementary, whether in their solos, the way that they accompany each other or the blend of their instruments,
that they consistently sound like one unified voice.
Rusty Burge, who is a professor at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, teaches jazz vibraphone and percussion. He has extensive experience as both a percussionist (including many tours with the Percussion Group Cincinnati) and as a vibraphonist who has recorded CDs for the Summit, J Curve, Human Records and Telarc labels. He has performed along the way with such notables as Ted Nash, Rich Perry, Peter Erskine, Dave Liebman and Rufus Reid. Steve Allee also has had a lifetime of experience. He has led six CDs of his own, and worked with Buddy Rich, Randy Brecker, David “Fathead” Newman and John Clayton among others. Allee has also written for television and movies, is the music director for the syndicated radio series ‘The Bob And Tom Show,” and will join the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music as professor of jazz studies.
On Faraway, Burge and Allee have combined together to create a program of picturesque music. The sound of the vibes and piano, a little reminiscent at times of Gary Burton and Chick Corea although they have their own styles, is very attractive. The duo takes turns being in the lead during melody statements and solos but the emphasis is generally on their often-beautiful originals and the interplay between the two musicians. Seven of the nine selections are either by the vibraphonist or the pianist. To name a few, “Browning Mountain” is a bit cinematic, “Waltz For Tomorrow” is a sensitive and somewhat touching piece that looks optimistically towards the future, and “Faraway” is a thoughtful performance with a lot of energy. Allee’s “What About Me” is quite fun, a boppish piece based on “How About You.” In addition to the originals, Burge and Allee create a happy performance of Billy Strayhorn’s classic “Isfahan” and they really dig into Charles Mingus’ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.”
Faraway features Rusty Burge and Steve Allee at their best, making music that is both beautiful and creative. It is well worth several listens.
Scott Yanow jazz reviewer
City Beat Magazine
Vibraphonist Rusty Burge has amassed an impressive curriculum vitae over the past 20-plus years: professor of vibraphone and percussion at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music,
director of CCM’s Steel Drum Band, member of the university’s acclaimed Percussion Group Cincinnati, one-time principal percussionist with the West Virginia Symphony and a healthy session musician
with a reputation that keeps him pathologically busy, resulting in an extensive Jazz discography.
Burge has also released four albums, including his new recording with pianist Steve Allee, the blissful and understatedFaraway.
Burge met Allee back around 2007, brought together by drummer Steve Houghton for a gig. Recognizing each other’s immense talents, the pair made the oft-spoken musical vow to work together sometime, a tentative plan undone by scheduling conflicts and busy lives.
When they finally carved out time, Burge met Allee at his studio last June and they knocked out the songs for Faraway in a single recording session.
“(Allee) lives out in the country in Indiana, pretty close to Bloomington, and he has a separate dwelling that’s a little studio,” Burge says. “He’s done a lot of jingles over the years; he’s the music director for (nationally syndicated radio program) The Bob and Tom Show, so he’s got a long history of doing all kinds of sessions. I went over the night before, had dinner, hung out, we got up the next morning, got the piano tuned and we just played for six or seven hours. It was a beautiful thing. He’s a master accompanist, really so comfortable on every level.”
Burge’s last album, 2012’s Transitions, featured trumpeter/pianist Kim Pensyl and bassist Mike Sharfe and wound up being one of the most successful recordings of Burge’s career. The album’s drum-less soundscape paved the way for the piano/vibraphone setting on Faraway.
“(Transitions) was vibes, a little horn and bass, so no drums, and at first I was a little leery, but that was kind of their theme,” Burge says.
“It spent 30 weeks on the Jazz charts. It was really nice because it was a different sound. There’s probably dozens of quartet/quintet albums coming out, so the fact that this was a little different instrumentation taught me something. Not that you have to be fringy or weird, but I think having a sound that is not being saturated is helpful.”
The sound that Burge and Allee concocted together on Faraway lives up to the title. Quietly evocative yet passionately intense, the tracks exude a laidback vibe while showcasing the glorious virtuosity of both players as their talents meld into an effortlessly complementary pas de deux.
“It’s not the most progressive album, and it could even be accused of being too mellow, certainly there are a lot of piano/vibes references to Gary (Burton) and Chick (Corea), but we just played,” Burge says. “I drove away (from the sessions) and had no idea what was there. I thought, ‘Well, that was pretty cool.’ Once I heard the initial tracks, then I was thinking, ‘That was really cool.’ ”
Faraway becomes even more impressive given the fact that Burge and Allee spent almost no time contemplating how to structure their recording session or the material.
“We had talked about some originals we were going to play,” Burge says. “It’s not like we’re in the same town. I’ll go up there a couple of times a year and play (Indianapolis’) Jazz Kitchen, and he’ll come down here. So we’ve played together enough, we traded originals, but it was pretty loose. When we got together, I had some ideas about a couple of my tunes. I wanted to split it around so it wasn’t one sonority, with the vibes always melody. So we talked about logistics. I’ve done that a lot in the studio and sometimes it’s overload, but one of the reasons I think this felt so comfortable was because it was so loose.”
While Burge lamented the lack of up-tempo tunes on Faraway, in the live arena the album bristles with energy and transcends its mellow studio birth. The chemistry between Burge and Allee catches fire in front of an audience.
“Steve can tear the walls down,” Burge says. “He’s got the McCoy Tyner/Herbie Hancock/modern thing, completely tasteful and always the right thing for the moment. But when we play live … we were laughing about this a couple of weeks ago. I said, ‘The album is pretty in, but when we play it live, it’s pretty out. We’re really stretching.’ He said, ‘Well, the next one’s going to be completely left.’ ”
Brian Baker-Citybeat Magazine
Reviews of Transitions
There’s an odd but interesting phenomenon frequently in play today in jazz wherein a recorded effort attempts to “move ahead” by looking back on the past and “playing tribute” moebius-like. In
some instances, the effort works only on the “playing tribute” level, but, not much more. That’s definitely not the case here. With Three Voices’ “Transitions” Trumpeter Kim Pensyl, vibraphonist
Rusty Burge, and bassist, Michael Sharfe collaborate superbly saluting a group of GASers and, with significant taste and flair, deliver a most enjoyable, very easy-to-take CD.
Textures and taste are names of the game on this date. Pensyl’s lush flugelhorn supported by Burge’s sparkling vibes and Sharfe’s restrained, but, highly engaged bass create a palette of pastels that invite interest and are never obnoxious. The material, although presenting classics (“Stella by Starlight,” “It Never Entered My Mind,”) also includes some under-recorded selections from sainted writers (“Isfahon” from Duke, Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing,” et al). All are performed impeccably.
Pensyl’s lush flugelhorn playing - with dynamic and rhythmic grace - demonstrates a marvelous command of his axe and channels both earlier Miles Davis and Chet Baker. He spins solos with elegantly conceived and tastefully delivered ideas. Burge, Tjader-esque, buys wholeheartedly into the restraint and coolness of the date. He’s hip without getting hot. Sharfe keeps all percolating and adds much more than simply walked lines. He swings and speaks a voice. This fine triangle of textures morphs into a unique instrument of its own and musically caresses the vaunted material.
Three Voices’ “Transitions” is an excellent example of classic music performed sublimely with reverence and respect by superior musicians. Nick Mondello - Jazz Times
All About Jazz
Three Voices is the trio of flugelhornist Kim Pensyl, vibraphonist Rusty Burge and bassistRusty Burge. While a vibraphone-anchored trio is not unheard of, it is a welcome and even novel change from piano- and guitar-centered small ensembles. The vibes lend a light touch to the harmonics of performance, providing an ethereal ambiance to the music. The flugelhorn (as opposed to the trumpet) magnifies these characteristics. Time keeping is the responsibility primarily of the bassist, but all of the principles can influence it.
Transitions is a collection of standards with three original free-form "Transitions" interspersed. These standards are all ballads, a form that lends itself to this particular format very well. These ballads and "transitions" meld well into a Tin Pan Alley tone poem, a unified and thematic work greater than the sum of its parts. The opening triptych of "Summer Night," "Dream Dancing" and "If I Should Lose You" establishes an airy progression of love songs rendered like a warm fire, perfumed with oak and hickory. The remainder of the recording follows suit, Kim Pensyl and company achieving a fine offering carefully played. Micahel Bailey - All About Jazz
Reviews of illumination
Rusty Burge beats to a different drum. Or, in this case, to a vibraphone. The Ohio-based mallet jazz artist has just released “Illumination,” the follow-up album to his critically acclaimed debut, “Contrast.” Given his instrumentation of choice, Burge is slightly off the mainstream. And “slightly” refers to the fact that Burge’s music is actually more accessible than one would think. True, a percussion-oriented style such as Burge’s is absent from many jazz radio stations; however, much of “Illumination” is carried by a strong sense of melody that transcends its seemingly avant-garde roots.
The title track would’ve made a fine score to a film-noir drama. Kim Pensyl’s trumpet gives it a seedy vibe, adding another thick layer of atmosphere to Burge’s playful vibraphone and Mike Sharfe’s enigmatic bass. From the beginning Burge has his hooks in us already; it doesn’t take much to fully reel us in. By the second cut, the chiming “Not Far,” Burge continues the hypnotic spell of his vibraphone. There is something fresh about it, a quality in hearing an instrument not commonly utilized. But Burge knows how to explore its potential, to paint images with it, as on the translucent “Ithaca.” The introspective “Reflection” has the emotional weight of a ballad. These are real songs and not instrumental doodling from a master of his craft.
Burge allows his fellow musicians time in the sunlight as well. On “Waltz for Tomorrow (Live),” Steve Hoskins’ gorgeously soulful soprano sax takes center stage and pretty much keeps it. It’s not a surprise that Burge is a professor at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The title of the album refers to enlightenment, and that’s what this record does. Did you ever imagine that a vibraphone could stir feelings within you? Let Burge show you the way. Leslie Connors Jazz Times
If you’re looking for some truly lovely music to give — or to give to yourself — check out the latest release from Rusty Burge: “Illumination.” (I’m thinking this will be nice accompaniment to some serious baking I plan to do.) Rusty Burge, professor of percussion at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and a founding member of Percussion Group Cincinnati, is a genuine wizard of the vibraphone. For his second solo outing, he has collaborated with some of the region’s finest jazz musicians for an album of mellow jazz featuring mallet instruments.“Illumination” is as enlightening as it is engaging.
This is melody-driven music, and Burge explores it through a prism of glowing colors. Burge, who performs on vibraphone, marimba, keyboards, piano, drums and percussion on this album, as well, has written eight of the nine compositions. The title track flows along to a gentle beat, rocked by a serene canvas of drums. Here, Burge’s vibraphone is accompanied by muted evocations from Kim Pensyl’s trumpet. “Not far” is a luminous improvisation for vibraphone, and it casts a hypnotic spell. Burge follows it up with jazzier reflections in “Ithaca.” “Reflection,” composed by Pat Burge, strikes an interior mood. Burge’s instrument glimmers against a smooth backdrop of light and dark, setting a distinctly Asian mood.
“Gotcha” is an attractive jazz trio for vibe, drums and Mike Sharfe’s bass. “Change” travels up and down the harmonic spectrum, punctuated by ringing chimes. “A dream,” which Burge begins on piano, evokes Ravel for its simple, Impressionistic feel. All but the live recording of “Waltz for Tomorrow,” which took place at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, were recorded at the CCM Jazz Department Recording Studios at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. “Waltz for Tomorrow” is a heartwarming, gently swinging collaboration, with Steve Hoskins on soprano sax, Sharfe on bass and John Taylor on drums. Burge takes a back seat while his colleagues take inventive turns on his original, sweeping theme. It’s a tune with lasting power, and it made me want to instantly listen to it again. Janelle Gelfand
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