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The Best of Kenny Burrell

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Album Review

Out of the many recordings Kenny Burrell issued for the Prestige label, it would be impossible to pick eight tracks and state they are his best. This collection makes a good go of it in selecting different sized groups Burrell participated in, and displays the variety of straight-ahead jazz contexts he worked in from 1956 to 1962. The classics include the ultimate 18-plus-minute blues-jazz jam "All Day Long" with fellow Detroiters Donald Byrd, Frank Foster, Tommy Flanagan, and Doug Watkins. From the top rank album The Cats comes "Minor Mishap" with Flanagan, John Coltrane, and Idrees Sulieman, as definitive a hard bop piece as there is. "Boo-Lu" is another memorable track, an angular Latin flavored composition reminiscent of Yusef Lateef, featuring Jerome Richardson on lead flute, and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley in later. The idea of stating a melody and having the second horn voice also crops up on the boogaloo shuffle "Montuno Blues," where the cool Coleman Hawkins enters as an afterthought post-Major Holley's scat sung and bowed bass, or Coltrane's cameo solo on "I Never Knew." The soul-jazz side of Burrell is here, playing rhythm chords with Jack McDuff's organ during the simple groove biscuit "It's a Wonderful World," there's the effortless swing and clean single lines the guitarist patented on "I'll Close My Eyes," and the as ultimate balladeer "All of You" displays Burrell's individuality with his Detroit trio of Flanagan, Watkins, and a reserved drummer Elvin Jones, who all lay out as much as they play. Four of these tracks are from that great year in music, 1957, a time when the guitarist was a rising star. Fact is, his stature has never diminished since, and this compilation of a young Kenny Burrell is a good reminder of not only his talent and his roots, but a short and sweet example of how professional jazz should be played. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: July 31, 1931 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the leading exponents of straight-ahead jazz guitar, Kenny Burrell is a highly influential artist whose understated and melodic style, grounded in bebop and blues, made him in an in-demand sideman from the mid-'50s onward and a standard by which many jazz guitarists gauge themselves to this day. Born in Detroit in 1931, Burrell grew up in a musical family in which his mother played piano and sang in the Second Baptist Church choir and his father favored the banjo and ukulele. Burrell began...
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