“joyously iconoclastic” – Keyboard Magazine
New York composer-pianist Kirk Nurock is refreshingly hard to pin down. He orchestrated for Dizzy Gillespie, Leonard Bernstein and Meredith Monk, composed a work for 20 voices and 3 canines which he conducted at Carnegie Hall, and won a scholarship at age 16 awarded by Duke Ellington. The New York Times summed it up “Mr. Nurock has unique credentials.”
A child prodigy, Nurock [b. 1948, Camden, NJ] was honored with the first Duke Ellington Scholarship to the Eastman School’s Arrangers’ Lab. He holds a Master’s degree in Composition from the Juilliard School, where his teachers included Vincent Persichetti, Hall Overton and Luciano Berio. Additional studies in jazz composition were with Johnny Richards, Manny Albam and Rayburn Wright.
As a young jazz pianist, Nurock “sat in” with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker and Phil Woods. During college years, working in the Catskill Mountains he accompanied icons of an earlier era including Billy Eckstine and Cab Callaway. He went on to arrange and conduct on Broadway, while producing “downtown” concerts of his own works.
In the 70’s Nurock formed the Natural Sound Workshop. Called “an inspired creation” by the New York Times, Natural Sound was an innovative vocal technique exploring the myriad sounds of untrained voices. Nurock’s chorus of 25 toured and performed his carefully-layered works which featured cackles, moans and gibberish. Of it Lukas Foss wrote: [quote to be located]. Nurock’s works for the ensemble often featured pioneering vocalist Jay Clayton.
In the 1980’s Nurock began exploring “cross-species communication,” creating instrumental and choral works with sea lions, wolves, a screech owl and a Siberian tiger. Works from this period include The Bronx Zoo Events (1980), Sonata for Piano and Dog (1983) and Expedition, for Siberian Husky and Jazz Trio (1984). A video-documentary, “Animalsong,” directed by Burrill Crohn, chronicles these works and the pieces appeared in national press and television.
Available now on Ride Symbol Records:
Liner note writer Donald Elfman describes hearing Kurt Nurock play magnificent piano in a jazz competition nearly 30 years prior to these recordings; his enthusiasm about rediscovering this fine pianist is no hype. With session mates Harvie Swartz on bass and drummer Bobby Previte, Nurock showcases his captivating originals. “Nu Waltz” is a soft-spoken, lyrical opener, while the tantalizing title track has the intensity of a modal piece like “Maiden Voyage.” Nurock interprets the two standards “Here’s That Rainy Day” and “I Love You” as well-crafted but rather abstract piano solos.