[bio / press]
Even before the first downbeat, pianist George Burton, head bent, hands splayed wide on the board, radiates a sense that something special is about to go down. And when he begins, it quickly becomes clear that what’s special is that his sound is all his own. His haunting melodies, startling harmonies, and sideways rhythms create a complex soundscape that gives audiences a glimpse of jazz’s past, present, and future.
Read: "They were all into jazz and they were the cool kids, so I started playing jazz..." (XPN The Key, 2014)
Raised in Philadelphia by musician parents, Burton began his musical training as a classical violinist and violist but turned to jazz while a student at CAPA, Philly’s renowned Creative And Performing Arts High School, which ultimately led to him studying Jazz Performance at Temple University. After Temple, Burton’s career took off. He won the prestigious Peter Nero Piano Competition, soloed with the Philly Pops, was the featured musician in Leslie Burrs' acclaimed opera "Vanqui," and became the pianist for Odean Pope and his world-famous Saxophone Choir.
Over the last decade he has traveled the world sharing the stage and sideman duties with some of jazz’s greatest musicians, such as Michael Brecker, James Carter, Joe Lovano, Wallace Roney, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Me’Shell NdegeOcéllo, Sean Jones, and Odean Pope, and is currently the pianist for the Sun Ra Arkestra. Burton is known as an innovative, risk-taking bandleader and a mainstay on the New York music scene with his three groups, The George Burton Quintet, Group 5, and the "Yule Log" Holiday Series.
Burton's playing and compositions clearly reveal his roots in Philly’s catchall music scene, where alternative hip-hop, R&B, straight-ahead jazz and the avant garde don’t just peacefully coexist but cross-pollinate. Burton’s playing and compositions blend, deconstruct, and rearrange these diverse influences into a style that JazzTimes calls “straight-but-not-straight,” reminiscent of jazz legend McCoy Tyner. The Philadelphia City Paper raves, “it’s not about virtuosity so much as vibe, which Burton has in abundance.” The New York Times laments “...he isn’t as well-known as he should be."
Read: "Burton stayed put for a while, calling those musically rich but financially meager years in Philadelphia 'the best education I could have gotten.' He apparently learned well." (Liberty City Press, 2014)
But Burton’s long-awaited debut album The Truth Of What I Am > (is greater than) The Narcissist, featuring saxophonist Tim Warfield, trumpeter Terell Stafford, drummer Wayne Smith, Jr., and bassist Noah Jackson, and produced by two-time Grammy winner Derrick Hodge, is changing that.
The Truth Of What I Am takes its title and inspiration from jazz iconoclast Charles Mingus, who once said:
In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.
The Truth Of What I Am is an antidote to the self-centered, narcissistic culture of “me,” and is a testament to the complexity and diversity of Burton’s artistic vision, with each tune being a departure and a return, a collaborative pushing of the boundaries of genre.