Kenny Burrell - guitar; Reggie Johnson - bass; Carl Burnette - drums; Special guest:; Ernie Andrews - vocals
Guitar great Kenny Burrell demonstrates typical taste and finesse on a trio set with bassist Reggie Johnson and drummer Carl Burnette during this May 12, 1977 performance at the Great American Music Hall. Throughout the program, whether he's negotiating the gorgeous chord changes of Thad Jones' sublime "A Child Is Born," swinging lightly and politely through Duke Ellington's "Love You Madly" or Great American Songbook fare like "My Shining Hour," interpreting Dizzy Gillespie's Latin-tinged "Tin Tin Deo," or driving the crew on Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train," Burrell's inherent bluesiness comes to the fore (a topic that he explores in great detail on his 1968 Verve outing, Blues - The Common Ground). At the time of this performance at the GAMH, Burrell was newly signed to Concord Records after several years with Fantasy and his album Tin Tin Deo (a trio outing with Johnson and Burnette) had just been released.
They open this GAMH concert with a crisply swinging, highly interactive rendition of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer tune "Out of this World," which Burrell recorded with sax great Coleman Hawkins on his 1962 album Bluesy Burrell. The guitarist is in top form on this energized uptempo romp, and his flexible rhythm tandem keeps up with him stride for stride. Dizzy's minor key Afro-Cuban masterpiece "Tin Tin Deo" (co-written in the late '40s with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo) is handled with chordal brilliance by Burrell and anchored by Burnette's polyrhythmic approach to the kit. Johnson also turns in a probing, extended bass solo here that elicits cheers from the audience. The trio breezes through Ellington's jaunty "Love You Madly" with Burnette on brushes and Johnson bearing down on deep-toned walking bass. They reach a gentle accord on Thad Jones' tender lullaby "A Child Is Born" then swing aggressively through Matt Dennis' 1940 nugget, "Will You Still Be Mine," which develops into a heated double-time burner. At the 4:45 mark, Burrell and Johnson drop out to showcase Burnette's considerable chops on a show-stopping five-minute drum solo.
Burrell next brings out special guest vocalist Ernie Andrews for an earthy rendition of Junior Parker's blues hit "Next Time You See Me," followed by a blues medley that begins with "Parker's Mood" and continues with "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand," with Andrews running through his impressions of various blues singing greats, from T-Bone Walker to Charles Brown, Jimmy Rushing, Ivey Anderson, and Walter Brown. Andrews then breaks from the straight blues format to turn in an emotional reading of the ballad "Feelings." And they take it out in jubilant fashion with an upbeat rendition of Billy Strayhorn's famous tune for the Duke Ellington Orchestra, "Take the A Train."
Born on July 31, 1931, Detroit native Kenny Burrell grew up in a musical household and began playing guitar at age 12, quickly falling under the spell of Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Oscar Moore, and T-Bone Walker. His innate bluesy feel served him well on the Motor City jazz scene as he mixed it up on the bandstand with the likes of pianist Tommy Flanagan, saxophonists Pepper Adams and Yusef Lateef, drummer Elvin Jones, and others. He made his recording debut in 1951 on a session that also featured trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and bassist Percy Heath. He played in pianist Oscar Peterson's trio in 1955 and the following year moved to New York, where he began working with the likes of singers Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne, trumpeter Kenny Dorham, organist Jimmy Smith, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists Ike Quebec, John Jenkins, Charlie Rouse, and Stanley Turrentine. That same incredibly productive year, 1956, he recorded Introducing Kenny Burrell for the Blue Note label. He followed with such classics as 1958's Blue Lights and 1963's Midnight Blue (both for Blue Note), 1965's Guitar Forms, which featured arrangements by Gil Evans, and 1968's Blues -- The Common Ground (both for Verve).
Burrell continued touring and recording through the '70s and in the mid-'80s, formed his Jazz Guitar Band with up and comers Bobby Broom and Rodney Jones. They released two albums on Blue Note - 1986's Generation and 1988's live at the Village Vanguard outing, Pieces of Blue and the Blues. Burrell recorded through the '90s for the Concord label and in 2007 Blue Note released his 75th Birthday Bash Live! In 2010, the standard bearer of straight ahead jazz guitar released another live album, Be Yourself: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, recorded at Lincoln Center's smaller club-like venue and released on the HighNote label. At age 79, he continues to perform and is also the founder and director of the Jazz Studies Program at UCLA, as well as President Emeritus of the Jazz Heritage Foundation. (Milkowski)