A film of Burton Greene
By Malcolm Hart

The film Moldavian Blues tells the story of how Jazz Pianist Burton Greene evolved from the pursuit of the American idiom to a more pressing awareness of his own Jewish roots and to the formation of Klezmokum, a group of contemporary Jazz musicians exploring old Jewish themes. It's a film about music and Burton is brief in telling his story.

  After a mind-bending career in New York in the 60s when he made his mark in radical free-form jazz, he came to Holland on a gig, a nervous breakdown creeping up on him. He recalls how his serendipitous meeting with and subsequent devotion to the teachings of Sri Swami Satchidananda got him through that particular night.

While resting in Amsterdam, his horizons changed. He could no longer see himself playing the crazy, improvised free-form Jazz and instead felt drawn to traditional East European ideas. His forefathers were from Moldavia. He was tapping into Gypsy and Klezmer music.

To give its audience a sense of Burton's music history there are pieces in the film from some of his earlier recordings; The Free Form Improvisation Ensemble for ESP Records in New York; moving from outer to inner space, a duet between piano and sitar recalling his encounter with Sitar Master Jamal Bhatyia and the formation of their East West Trio.

As the story progresses into present time the talking is done and Klezmokum becomes prominent with its extraordinary jazz vocalist Marek Balata who has a range of four octaves and the scat-ability of Charlie Parker. The film ends with a new composition played solo by Burton, a wistful love song written for and to him by a friend.

Entire film


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