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Kenny Burrell

Four Classic Albums

AVID JAZZ AMSC1327 [82:00 + 75:03]

 

 

 

CD1

Kenny Burrell

1. Get Happy
2. But Not For Me
3. Mexico City
4. Moten Swing
5. Cheeta
6. Now See How You Are
7. Phinupi
8. How About You

Kenny Burrell (g), Frank Foster (tenor sax, tracks 6-8), J.R. Monterose (tenor sax, track 3)

Kenny Dorham (trumpet, track 3), Tommy Flanagan (piano, 1, 4-8), Bobby Timmons (piano, 3)

Oscar Pettiford (bass, 4-8), Paul Chambers (bass, track 1), Sam Jones (bass, track 3) Arthur Edgehill (drums, 3), Kenny Clarke (drums, 1), Shadow Wilson (drums, 4-8)

rec. Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack (NJ), March 12, May 29 & May 30, 1956.
Introducing Kenny Burrell
9. This Time The Dream’s On Me
10. Fugue ‘n Blues
11. Takeela
12. Weaver Of Dreams
13. Delilah
14. Rhythmorama
15. Blues For Skeeter

Kenny Burrell (guitar, except track 14), Tommy Flanagan (piano, tracks 9-13, 15), Paul Chambers (bass, 9-13, 15), Candido (congas), Kenny Clarke (drums)

rec. Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack (NJ), May 29-30, 1956.

CD2
Blue Lights Vol 1
1. Yes Baby
2. Scotch Blues
3. Autumn In New York
4. Caravan

Kenny Burrell (guitar), Junior Cook & Tina Brooks (tenor sax, tracks 1-2, 4) Louis Smith (trumpet, 1-2, 4), Bobby Timmons (piano, tracks 3-4) Sam Jones (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

rec. Manhattan Towers Hotel, New York City, May 14, 1958
Blue Lights Vol 2
5. Rock Salt
6. The Man I Love
7. Chuckin’
8. Phinupi

Kenny Burrell (guitar), Junior Cook and Tina Brooks (tenor sax, tracks 5,7-8), Louis Smith (trumpet, track 6), Duke Jordan (piano, track 6) Bobby Timmons (piano, tracks 5, 7) Sam Jones (bass) Art Blakey (drums)

rec. Manhattan Towers Hotel, New York City, May 14, 1958.

Kenny Burrell (b. 1931) was brought up in Detroit – like so many interesting jazz musicians who emerged internationally in the 1950s (a few that come quickly to mind include pianists Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Hugh Lawson, Hank Jones, Sir Roland Hanna and Kirk Lightsey, reedmen like Frank Foster, Yusef Lateef, Pepper Adams, J.R. Monterose and Sonny Stitt, trumpeters Donald Byrd, Thad Jones and Lonnie Hillyer, trombonist Curtis Fuller, vibraphone player Milt Jackson, bassist Paul Chambers and drummers Elvin Jones, Louis Hayes and Roy Brooks). In Detroit, as a teenager Burrell played with many of the above. At the age of 19, a touring Dizzy Gillespie employed Burrell for a gig in Detroit. In 1955 he was invited by Oscar Peterson to sub for a sick Herb Ellis in OP’s trio and he toured briefly with the Canadian pianist. In the same year Burrell graduated with a B. Mus. from Wayne State University and in the following year he moved (along with Tommy Flanagan in some accounts) to New York City. He rapidly established himself on the New York jazz scene, both in the clubs and in the recording studios. His first two albums under his own name are reproduced in this attractive and enjoyable set from Avid – Kenny Burrell and Introducing Kenny Burrell – both were recorded within months of his arrival in the Big Apple.

Judged by the standards of the very best albums Burrell has made during his very lengthy career (I believe he is still playing occasionally!), such as Midnight Blue (1963), Guitar Forms (1964) and the two magnificent volumes of Ellington Is Forever (1975), these first two albums are not perhaps terribly special. But they remain (at the very least) pleasant listening and show what a fluent player Burrell already was – his equal indebtedness to the blues, to the innovations of bop and the swing idiom and his synthesis of these ‘influences’ (which would go on largely to characterize most of his later work) is already evident. I don’t think there is any one track on these two albums which is indispensable but, on the other hand, nor is there any single track unworthy of one’s time and attention.

Burrell seems never to have been a dominant or selfish leader – he is always ready to give others space and opportunity. The details above indicate how many fine musicians were involved in these sessions and there are chances to hear good work by such as Monterose, Flanagan, Foster, Timmons and Louis Smith, as well as the very different drum styles of Shadow Wilson and Kenny Clarke. It is indicative of Burrell’s lack of ego that the most distinctive track on these two albums is one on which he (despite being the leader) doesn’t appear. This is ‘Rhythorama’, a percussion duet between Kenny Clarke and Candido. The sounds of Clarke’s drum kit and the congas of Candido interweave and interact fascinatingly across the six and a half minutes of the track.

The two later (only two tears later!) albums also reissued here, Blue Lights Vols. 1 & 2, are ‘blowing sessions’, a kind of recording with which Burrell became much identified in the 1950s, whether as a leader or a sideman. The ‘blowing session’ unlike the true jam session (with which it had more than a little in common) was created specifically for the recording studio, avoiding too much in the way of preparation or arrangement, and involving either standards (such as ‘Caravan’ or ‘The Man I Love’) or simple themes (such as ‘Yes Baby’ or ‘Rock Salt’, both fairly straightforward blues), thus allowing the instrumentalists to develop their own ideas within a simple arrangement without too much rehearsal. It would be interesting to know how many takes were involved in the preparation of these tracks. These were the Blue Note debuts of the tenor players Junior Cook and Tina Brooks, and it is good to hear both of them stretch at some (but not excessive) length. The crystalline piano of Duke Jordan is one of my favourite sounds in modern jazz and I have much enjoyed re-acquainting myself with his contribution here (once, long ago, I owned the original LPs). Louis Smith plays (as he usually does) with direct emotion and a good sense of structure. Everyone concerned – including we listeners – benefits from the presence of Art Blakey at the drums. [A previous CD reissue of Blue Lights contained an extended reading of ‘I Never Knew’ – not included on the original LPs and therefore also absent here).

While these two discs wouldn’t perhaps be drawn on for a retrospective CD of ‘The Very Best of Kenny Burrell’, they certainly deserve a place in any collection of Burrell’s work – or, given Burrell’s generous treatment of musicians nominally under his leadership, in the collection of any who, like me, are particularly fond of the jazz of the 1950s.

Glyn Pursglove

 


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