[21 January 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
This 1966 recording of the Burton Greene Trio on a New York college tour is an odd duck. Then again, it’s supposed to be. Avant-garde pianist Greene, along with bassist Steve Tintweiss and drummer Shelly Rusten, had a bit of an academic motivation for their excursion. Their goal was to “(open) up some heads” and learn people to the fact that “the results were as musically complex and often more so than, let’s say Beethoven”. These come from Burton Greene’s own liner notes in the ESP-Disk reissue. He also admits that people walked out of a lecture hall at that point.
On Tour is a challenging listen, but it’s one that has been softened by time. Lots of albums in the avant-jazz genre have come and gone since then, but they are all thumbprints—no two are alike. This forgotten Greene release captures his trio in a peculiar light. By no means is it choir preaching. After reading Greene’s liner notes, you’re convinced that the tour that spawned On Tour wasn’t really about conversion either. As he said they “tried to encourage people to learn to do their own thing rather than to follow us blindly and mimic our techniques etc.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard such encouraging words inside of a lecture hall.