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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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KENNY BURRELL

Kenny Burrell + Swingin'

Poll Winners Records
PWR 27323

 

 

1.Get Happy

2.But Not For Me (Kenny Burrell unaccompanied guitar)

3.Mexico City

4.Moten Swing

5.Cheeta

6.Now See How You Are

7.Phinupi

8.How About You?

9.I Never Knew

10.My Heart Stood Still

11.Beef Blue Stew

12.If You Could See Me Now

13.Swingin’

1-7 from the album Kenny Burrell Blue Note LP1543 ; 8-13 from the album Swingin’ Blue Note GXF-3070

Kenny Burrell (guitar) on all tracks plus on track 1 Tommy Flanagan (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums) and Candido Camero (congas), on track 3 Kenny Dorham (trumpet), J.R.Monterose (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Arthur Edgehill (drums), on tracks 4-8 & 10 Frank Foster (tenor sax, save 4-5), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Oscar Pettiford (bass), Shadow Wilson (drums), on track 9 Tina Brooks & Junior Cook (tenor saxes), Louis Smith (trumpet), Duke Jordan (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Art Blakey (drums), on tracks 11-12 Sir Roland Hanna (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), Art Blakey (drums), on track 13 Tina Brooks (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), Art Blakey (drums). All recorded between 1956-59 in New Jersey (tracks 1-2) and New York (tracks 3-13).

Poll Winners Records PWR 27323 [78:27]


For me guitar jazz only works when the guitarist is something extra special and that certainly goes for Kenny Burrell making this disc a joy from start to finish. His innate musicianship coupled with his choice of superlative colleagues make for a wonderful way to pass an extremely generous 79 minutes. Right from the get go there is crackling excitement with Get Happy an instruction that is easy to comply with. This quintet of giants also gives us an all too rare opportunity to hear the brilliant congas virtuoso Candido Camero. After this we have the only solo from the guitar master in the shape of the beautiful But Not For Me, a dreamily wonderful account. Then there follows a brilliant rendition of Kenny Dorham’s Mexico City which comes from a session recorded live at The Cafe Bohemia in 1956, while the other tracks from the first set come from Kenny Burrell’s first exposures on LP in his own name, Introducing Kenny Burrell and Weaver of Dreams. I particularly enjoyed Kenny Dorham’s superb trumpeting on Mexico City which originally appeared on an LP of his entitled ‘Round Midnight at The Cafe Bohemia.

It’s easy to understand how these early LPs from Burrell helped establish his name as a real guitar wizard and lay the foundation of a career that has lasted 60 years with over 75 albums as leader to his credit plus almost 25 with organist Jimmy Smith. As sideman he has appeared live and on disc with some of the greatest personalities in jazz history from Billy Holiday and Shirley Horn to Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Nat Adderley, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Kai Winding and many, many more. His consummate skill has rightly earned him legions of devoted fans that recognise him as one of the most outstanding jazz guitar virtuosos of all time.

Another facet of his playing is his refusal to hog the limelight; take his own composition Phinupi which closes the first set on which Frank Foster, Tommy Flanagan and Oscar Pettiford are each given room to show off their undisputed talents with Shadow Wilson keeping things anchored on drums.

Opening the second set is a swinging arrangement of How About You? with the same colleagues and which includes a marvellous solo from Foster. The second track I Never Knew is the longest on the CD at over twelve and a half minutes and features the all too infrequently heard Tina Brooks and Junior Cook an tenor saxes along with Louis Smith on trumpet, Duke Jordan on piano with Sam Jones on bass and drum legend personified Art Blakey making for a septet to die for! Once again Burrell is on for as long as necessary allowing space to feature these superlative musicians, including a masterful solo from the trumpet of Louis Smith.

One of my personal favourite tunes comes next in the shape of Rogers & Hart’s My Heart Stood Still which is given a really dreamy treatment with Frank Foster’s beautifully mellow sax featuring along with Tommy Flanagan’s matching gentle piano and of course Kenny’s soft guitar. The booklet states that this tune is the only mono recording on the disc as Blue Note only began recording in stereo in 1957. That seems strange since the recording date is given as March 12, 1956 the same as tracks 4-8.

I’ve always been fascinated that any jazz musician can bear the name Sir Roland Hanna but have discovered it was an honorary title bestowed on him by President William Tubman of Liberia in 1970. If it was in any way connected with his brilliance at the keyboard, which it surely was, then tracks 11 and 12 demonstrate why the President was so impressed. Beef Blues Stew may be in waltz time but that presents no problems to this quartet of greats with the aforementioned knight anchoring the tune along with Kenny Burrell while Ben Tucker’s bass and Art Blakey’s drums provide perfect rhythm in the background and a rare example of Blakey in ¾ time. If You Could See Me Now is another deliciously dreamy tune which, as the booklet notes point out is a good example of Tad Dameron’s compositional skills in the harmonic department while Hanna reflects his admiration of Errol Garner’s piano style in his solos.

The disc signs off with the album title tune Swingin’ a tune by Clifford Brown that wonderful trumpet wizard whose cruel death, aged 25 in a car crash in 1956 robbed the jazz world of a musician whose contribution should have continued to delight and amaze audiences for decades to come. In a career that alas covered a mere four years he managed to leave a marvellous legacy of over two dozen recordings and several of his compositions have become jazz standards including Daahoud , Joy spring and Swingin’. It is a fitting tribute to him that this was chosen to sign off this album as it is a real showcase for the talents of each and every member of this dream quintet with brilliant solos from Tina Brooks’ sax and Bobby Timmons’ piano (both of who died in 1974 at young ages due to drug addiction) as well as Kenny Burrell whose solos are especially pleasing. Add to these some great work from Art Blakey and Ben Tucker and you have a supremely enjoyable way for a record to end; one can only envy those lucky enough to have been present in the Five Spot Club in New York on 25th August 1959 when it was recorded.

The original Down Beat review of the record Kenny Burrell that provide tracks 1-7 gave it 4 stars and ends “Burrell is a guitar man to watch” – he still is!

Steve Arloff



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