When he was as young as 3 years old, Rob Burger was already entertaining guests at the piano at his parents’ dinner parties. At age 5, after the discovery of perfect pitch, Burger began formal classical training with concert pianist Jeffrey Marcus, while also playing in school bands, maintaining a strong interest in popular music.
At the University of Massachusetts, Burger studied classical performance, improvisation and African American Studies under the direction of Yusef Lateef. While expanding his eclectic interests in various folk and experimental musical styles, he picked up the accordion as a natural extension of his keyboard studies. This was followed by an invitation to tour with guitarist Bill Frisell, performing excerpts from Aaron Copeland’s Billy The Kid and Charles Ives’ Places In New England. The band featured drummer Joey Baron, and clarinetist Don Byron. In 1995, Burger relocated to San Francisco to form the chamber group Tin Hat Trio, and with them, he co-wrote and co-produced four critically acclaimed recordings for various major labels. While in the Bay Area, his diverse performance work continued to inform his improvisational style through various projects interpreting the music of film composers and arrangers such as Henry Mancini, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, and Burt Bacharach.
In 2001, Burger moved back to New York where he established a close artistic relationship with composer John Zorn, contributing to many of his film scores and recordings. During this time, Burger also released two full-length solo recordings for the Tzadik label, entitled Lost Photograph and City Of Strangers. Meanwhile, Rob continued to utilize his multi-instrumental skills, gracing the stage and recordings of some of music’s most acclaimed artists including Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, Anohni, and Laurie Anderson.
Burger’s inspiration and experience continued to grow within the medium of film music after a prestigious invitation in 2008, to perform the works of Bernard Herrmann as a featured soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He subsequently went on to score and contribute to a number of acclaimed feature and documentary films including Everything is Illuminated (Liev Schriber), Diminished Capacity (Terry Kinney), Nebraska (Alexander Payne), 360 (Fernando Meirelles), Bully (Lee Hirsch), The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan (Henry Corra), and Trouble (Theresa Rebeck). He also appears in the films Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, Still Bill, and Greetings From Tim Buckley.
In 2011, Burger was asked to produce Iron & Wine’s song Flightless Bird, American Mouth for the film soundtrack Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1. He then went on to co-produce and arrange the band’s sixth release Ghost On Ghost on Nonesuch Records. In the spring of 2015, Burger was invited to join Ryan Adams on his North American tour. A remarkably versatile musician, Burger continues to be an active composer, arranger, session musician, and music director for projects of all kinds. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his partner, Mary Mulliken, and their children Orlis Blackbird, Lenox Bear and Odelette Bee.
Photo by Scott Irvine.