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George Burton Quintet

Before the first note is even played, pianist and composer George Burton’s commanding presence makes apparent that he is an innovative, risk-taking bandleader. His highly anticipated debut release on saxophonist Greg Osby’s label Inner Circle Music, The Truth Of What I Am > (is greater than) The Narcissist features 10 original compositions produced by two-time Grammy winning bassist Derrick Hodge.

Burton, a multi-instrumentalist (piano, violin and viola), Burton knows about pushing against boundaries from growing up in the “Philly experience” with the cross-pollination of music genres from alternative to hip-hop, R&B, straight-ahead jazz and avant-garde. Burton has done it all: he came of age playing with Philly hard-bop legends Shirley Scott, Bootsie Barnes, and Sid Simmons, then had a long tenure as the pianist for Odean Pope’s massive saxophone choir and the Philadelphia-born opera “Vanqui” blending operatic and classical traditions.

Since moving to New York ten years ago, he has become a mainstay on the New York music scene, hailed as” charismatic” by The New York Times—playing with established artists like Me’Shell NdegeOcéllo, Jack Walrath, J.D. Allen, Sean Jones, and James Carter—and now the pianist for the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra. Burton’s playing and compositions blend, deconstruct, and rearrange these diverse influences into a style that JazzTimes calls “Straight-but-not-straight.”

Cultivating his artistry for the past 15 years yields a debut album that traverses a range of emotions as diverse as its inspired genres. For The Truth of What I Am, Burton assembled an impressive lineup of acclaimed collaborators including guitarist Ilan Bar-Lavi, alto saxophonist Chris Hemingway, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Noah Jackson, in addition to his fellow Philadelphia natives tenor/alto saxophonist Tim Warfield, trumpeter Terell Stafford, drummer Wayne Smith, Jr. With a few exceptions, the music on The Truth of What I Am was played live by the band at Sear Sound, sans touch-ups. Burton’s sound is an experience that connects listeners in forging the frontier of improvised music. What matters most to him is that the performances never hit stasis; they must constantly be unfolding further, pushing harder.

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