At 75, Kenny Burrell's career should be considered a lesson in longevity. Swinging as hard as ever, the guitarist's patented style of smooth-toned, blues-inflected bop that has made him a favorite of jazz audiences and an inspiration to legions of guitarists is strongly intact. 75th Birthday Bash Live! is a fitting celebration in honor of the Detroit native who has been churning out spectacular recordings since his debut as a leader over fifty years ago withIntroducing Kenny Burrell (Blue Note, 1956). Recorded at Yoshi's in Oakland, California, the disc features Burrell backed up by the energetic Gerald Wilson Orchestra for the first half and a smaller ensemble to close things out.
The festivities begin with Wilson's signature piece "Viva Tirado, working well with Burrell punching out the syncopated accompaniment with the brass section. The guitarist steps lively through the modal framework of the tune and ends his solo with a statement of his famous "Chitlin's Con Carne. Burrell's relaxed vocalizing on "Stormy Monday bares an uncanny resemblance to the the tune's author, T-Bone Walker.
Half of the selections with Wilson, "Love You Madly, Sophisticated Lady, and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore, and another from the small group set, "Take the 'A' Train, reveal the guitarist's affinity for Duke Ellington. Throughout his career as a performer and educator at UCLA, Burrell has always been a staunch advocate for Ellington's music, and it comes as no surprise to find an abundance of it represented on this disc.
The second half of the session is a satisfying mix of standards performed in a more subdued setting by Burrell, bassist Roberta Miranda, drummer Clayton Cameron and special guests. The guitar trio format has always been a strong medium for Burrell to show off his dynamic range, and his renditions of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints and Miles Davis' "All Blues found on this release are no exception. Flutist extraordinaire Hubert Laws joins in on a somber reading of J.J. Johnson's "Lament and the Dizzy Gillespie anthem "A Night in Tunisia, also featuring saxophonists Jeff Clayton and Herman Riley.
Teaming with organist Joey DeFrancesco on a ravishing version of "I'll Close My Eyes Burrell recalls his classic sessions from the 1950s and '60s with Jimmy Smith that helped to define the organ/guitar sound.
Playing with the exuberance of a man half his age, Burrell displays unwavering conviction to his music and a love for the guitar that is inspiring. 75th Birthday Bash Live is a joyous reflection on one of the most prolific careers in jazz.
Track Listing: Viva Tirado; Stormy Monday/Blues for the Count; Romance; Love You Madly; Sophisticated Lady; Don"t Get Around Much Anymore; Footprints; Lament; All Blues; A Night in Tunisia; I"ll Close My Eyes; Take the "A" Train.
Personnel: Kenny Burrell: guitar, vocals (2, 12); Jeff Clayton: alto sax (10, 12); Herman Riley: tenor sax (10, 12); Roberto Miranda: bass (7-9), congas (10); Clayton Cameron: drums (7-12); Hubert Laws: flute (8, 10, 12); Joey DeFrancesco: organ (10-12); Gerald Wilson Orchestra (1-6): Ron Barrows: trumpet; Steve Hufsteter:; trumpet; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Snooky Young: trumpet; Les Benedict: trombone; Garnett Brown: trombone; Maurice Spears: trombone; Mike Wimberly: trombone; Kamasi Washington: alto sax; Randall Willis: alto sax, flute; Carl Randall: tenor sax; Louis Van Taylor: tenor sax, flute; Jack Nimitz: baritone sax; Anthony Wilson: guitar (1); Brian O"Rourke: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Mel Lee: drums; Gerald Wilson: conductor.
Published: June 17, 2007