Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kenny Burrell - Five Original Albums (Blue Note, 2018)

This budget five disc collection covers some of the highlights from the early recording career of the legendary jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. While is doesn't contain arguably Burrell's finest album, the incomparable Midnight Blue, there are five albums he recorded for Blue Note Records in the 1950's with him performing in jam sessions, studio takes and a live album for considerable variety within the Blue Note hard bop format. Opening appropriately enough with Introducing Kenny Burrell, we see the guitarist as confident and fully formed as a musician and as a quick thinking improviser, playing standards and originals with Tommy Flanagan on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. They plow with abandon through "This Time the Dream's On Me" as Burrell demonstrates his fluid and flowing tone on the instrument. He generously sits out in his own session to allow the great Latin percussionist Candido to engage with the bebop pioneer Clarke in a drum and percussion duet called "Rhythmorama" which is a very exciting track that shows these two great musicians using their unique approaches to their instruments to create a volatile and pulsating improvisation. The self titled second album keeps the same personnel as to the first, adding a beautiful version of "Get Happy" that puts a spring in everyone's step, along with the galloping rhythm of "Cheeta." None of these albums contain any extra tracks, but the whole session that comprises the above albums and more can be found on the 2000 Blue Note double disc collection Introducing Kenny Burrell: The First Blue Note Sessions. Burrell was no stranger to the studio jam session, having taken part in many for the Prestige including the LP side long slabs "Al Day Long" and "All Night Long" so he was perfectly suited to lead a range of hard bop luminaries that would create the next two albums included here, Blue Lights Vol. One and Two. This open ended format suits the music quite well, allowing the group to use standards and blues as vehicles to explore the hard bop and soul jazz sub genres in detail, creating a wide range of solo space for the leader and sidemen like Sam Jones on bass and Art Blakey, who create a wonderful pocket for the musicians to explore, and unheralded players like the trumpeter Louis Smith and the saxophonists Tina Brooks and Junior Cook to ply their wares. As with the introductory session, these two albums are available on a double disc set that brings all the music from these sessions into a convenient package. Finally, there is a stellar live album called On View At The Five Spot, that has a primo band featuring Tina Brooks on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons or Roland Hanna on piano, Ben Tucker on bass and Art Blakey on drums. They tear with wonderful abandon through jazz standards like Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works" and the Gershwin favorite "Lady Be Good" rounding things off with an emotionally sound version of "Lover Man." Overall, this collection presents sound value for the money, with five strong albums for the budget price. Costs had to be cut somewhere, so there are no bonus tracks and the packaging is on the flimsy side. The cover art and liner notes for each disc replicates the original LP's, however the notes are in a microscopic font. 5 Original Albums -

Send comments to Tim.