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George Burton: The Truth of What I Am

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Zoran Jelenic
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George Burton has been a pianist to watch in Philadelphia, his hometown, for almost 20 years now — since the late 1990s, when I was a close observer of the scene, and he was a jazz performance major at Temple University. Burton has since put in countless sideman hours with artists both local (saxophonists Odean Pope and Bootsie Barnes) and international (singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello), not to mention intergalactic (the Sun Ra Arkestra). But he hadn’t released his own album as a leader until last year. 

That long-awaited debut, The Truth Of What I Am > (is greater than) The Narcissist, was produced by Derrick Hodge and released on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music. Featuring a smart combination of peers and advisors, including the Philly jazz veterans Terell Stafford (trumpet) and Tim Warfield, Jr. (saxophone), it’s an album that reflects Burton’s broadminded tastes – the freedom, as he puts it, of “not just being stuck on one very particular genre of jazz.”

In this episode My Music on The Checkout, Burton speaks about the motivation behind his idiosyncratic album title, which he borrowed from bassist and composer Charles Mingus. He also shares some music, including “Song6,” which features his guitarist, Ilan Bar-Levi, and draws inspiration from the introspective rock soundscapes of Sigur Rós and Radiohead.

The George Burton Quintet performs at the Newport Jazz Festival on August 4th. 

Assistant Producer: Sarah Geledi

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.
A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.