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On View at the Five Spot Cafe (1959)


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Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell and Art Blakey played together infrequently during their careers, so this meeting of jazz minds is a welcome occasion. A rather short set issued here from club dates at the Five Spot Cafe in New York City must have meant there were other nights of recordings that did not make it for public consumption, or that Burrell simply sat in. Then again, this is not Blakey's Jazz Messengers circa 1959, but more the Tina Brooks quartet featuring Blakey, with a rotating piano chair featuring either Bobby Timmons or Roland Hanna. No matter the configuration, this is come-what-may jazz that has no pressurized content, but rather a relaxed atmosphere allowing the music to breathe organically and come alive naturally. This loose but tight feeling comes to the fore right away on Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works," a rather polite version as Burrell and Brooks toss out their discriminating versions of the melody. Incorrectly identified as "Lady Be Good," this is actually an adaptation reworked by Thelonious Monk titled "Hackensack." It's a fast jam kicked off by a signature Blakey solo, where the bandmembers fly by the seat of their pants and good feelings are fostered through the simple and solid tenor work of Brooks. Though not penned by Duke Ellington, the elegance he displayed and Burrell has always revered is quite evident during the ballad "Lover Man." There's a distinct difference between these tracks featuring Timmons and the others where Hanna is involved. The quick "Hallelujah," kicked off by a signature Blakey solo, balances soul and the pianist's more obtuse voicings. "36-23-36" is clearly a fantasy of the ideal female proportions, a short blues groove with Burrell and Hanna tracking the woman from opposite ends. The CD version has some additional material but not enough to comprise a complete session -- maybe someday. Randy Weston's "Beef Stew Blues," Ray Brown's obscure "Swingin'," and the classic Tadd Dameron ballad "If You Could See Me Now" further illuminate how good this group could have been had it turned into a working unit. As the dawn of the 1960s saw new-breed jazz being fomented, Burrell, Blakey, and company proved you could still swing and remain melodic while creating new sonic vistas. This recording is easily recommended to all. ~ Michael G. Nastos