James Burke

Hands On

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AllMusic Review by

In the tradition of Art Tatum and George Shearing, pianist Jim Burke applies the full range and capabilities of the instrument to each song he performs. Burke also shows the influence of Ahmad Jamal, no doubt gained from a long sojourn in Chicago. There's nothing minimalist about his approach as Burke performs with a flourish and melodic fullness that leaves the song wrung out after he's finished with it. Like Tatum, Burke has a lightness of touch that belies his prodigious technical mastery of the keyboard. All of this comes together in such songs as a passionate "Summer Me, Winter Me" and a lovely, tender version of "Here's That Rainy Day." On this cut Burke rides on knowing pizzicato basslines by Robb Fisher and the delicate brushes of Lee Charlton. An outstanding track of music indeed. Most of the tunes on the play list are from the standard repertory and tunes from the Broadway stage and/or the movies. But they were selected for their lyrical grace rather than where they came from. The richness of the sonority he develops is also apparent throughout the session and comes through with special sympathy on such tunes as the Brazilian-cadenced "Estaté" and the waltz-like "Sometime Ago." There must be thousands (or at least many hundreds) of piano trios performing in recorded jazz literature. Burke and his fellow threesome members don't revolutionize the format by any means, or even add new dimensions, but they certainly add to its luster with imaginative, mellifluous, and full-blooded interpretations of mostly familiar material. Recommended.