Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Burrows, Greg

Burrows, Greg, drummer, percussionist; b. 1963. Greg has played the drums (drum set) and a variety of hand percussion instruments since early childhood. He was drawn to play with chopsticks on pots and pans along with the Greek folk and Indian classical music that his parents played at their home in New Haven, Connecticut, where his father, David Lamont Burrows (b. 1930), was a professor of musicology. His mother, Lubow Terlecka Burrows (b. 1929) had been a student of classical piano since her youth in The Ukraine. As a result, Greg, along with older brother Timothy and sister Nina, was surrounded by a broad variety of music from 'day one,' literally.

He considers himself to be primarily a jazz musician who has branched out into numerous areas of American and "world" music, and continues on a constant search for ways to integrate multiple styles of playing into one cohesive sound. For example, he has explored and professionally performed various types of "American groove music" [to borrow the phrase from his teacher Bob Moses] such as funk and "pop," and numerous international musical styles (i.e., Brazilian samba, Southern Italian tarantella, Trinidadian "Soca" and calypso, and more). In New Rochelle, NY, the town in which he has spent most of his formative years, there was (and is) a multicultural atmosphere, and therefore it was a fertile musical breeding ground.

It was this atmosphere that led Greg to playing in the local African-American churches, playing with a choir for services in a racially integrated band that included Mark McLean on the electric bass and Marcus Arike playing alto saxophone. The boys in this band were between 13-14 years of age at the time, and it was Greg's first paying gig. Also, significantly, it was his first direct exposure to the trance-inducing power and enormous healing potential of music, since the rhythms brought forth by the music often caused the churchgoers to "catch the spirit" and fall to the floor in a state of spiritual ecstasy.

Recently, he has begun incorporating more singing into his work, especially since taking a series of voice lessons with New York City -based vocal instructor Susan Baum in January of 2002.

In the area of jazz music, a place where Greg has spent most of his professional energies, he has performed and/or recorded with the following notable groups and players:  Medeski Martin & Wood, bassists Sean Smith and Jaco Pastorius (with Brazilian samba band Grupo Batucada in 1982), trombonist Eddie Bert, guitarist Sal Salvador, tenor saxophonist/arranger Todd Anderson, pianist Kevin Hays, Joe Calderazza, and Bill Charlap, and many others.

He considers his most prominent drumming influences to be Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Joe Morello, Mel Lewis, Roy Haynes, Babatunde Olatunji, Poncho Sanchez, Louie Bellson, and virtually anyone playing the instrument on a high musical level. Greg also spent some time connecting and sharing musical ideas with Leon Parker while they were both living in Westchester County, NY during the mid-to-late 1980s.

Greg Burrows' most important teachers were: Henry Adler, Dave Weckl, Joe Morello, Bob Moses, Peter Erskine and Glenn Berino, for drum set; Alessandra Belloni, Glen Velez, Montego Joe, Reinhard Flatischler and Milton Cardona, focusing on frame drums and congas; and Dick Horowitz (NY Metropolitan Opera) and Ray DesRoches, 'classical' and 'new music' percussion (which included timpani, marimba, vibraphone, and the rest of the standard percussion family).

As a student at the State University of New York at Purchase, Greg had the rare privilege of spending 5 days with Louie Bellson as he recorded the drums for Benny Goodman's final record date (summer, 1985). He ended up acting as Louie's assistant on the date, running out to grab him cups of tea and showing him the way to the pay phone for his frequent calls to his wife, the great late Pearl Bailey. The experience left Greg with a deeply etched sense of what it meant to be a swinging, supportive big band drummer. During this brief period, Bellson served as a great role model and an unmatchable mentor.

In August 2002, Greg embarked on a quest to learn about and master the bones, an ancient musical instrument consisting of two rib bones from a steer (or a pair of small, flat wooden sticks) played using a pair in each hand, which requires an elusive and unusual method of playing. Greg has already found ways to apply the bones into solo work, as well as with a tap dance/performance group called RhythMutation [a group which also features tap/performance artists Chikako Iwahori and Stephanie Larierre and plays in clubs and small theaters around New York City].

In 2001, Greg completed a 3-year teacher training to become a Ta Ke Ti Na rhythm teacher. Taketina is an innovative new teaching system which was developed by Austrian percussionist/composer Reinhard Flatischler over the past 30+ years.

He is currently organizing workshops in the NY/Connecticut/New Jersey area.

Selected recordings:
Billy Martin: Black Elk Speaks (2002)
Open Session With the Greg Burrows Quintet (2000) (MMO), educational play-along CD w/ drum charts, booklet. In print. With: Kevin Hays (p), Todd Anderson (t sax), Sean Smith (b), Jamie Finegan (trp), Greg Burrows (drums, leader)
Brown Baby Girl (2007) – percussion/sideman session
Las Rubias Del Norte: “Rhumba Internationale” (2004)
“Panamericana” (2006)
Chicha Libre: “Sonido Amazonico” (2009)
Eclipse: “It’s Christmas Now” (2010)

Contact information:
Email: greg_b@mac.com

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