Kenny Burrell – God Bless the Child – CTI/ Pure Pleasure 6011 stereo vinyl LP, 1971 ****:

(Kenny Burrell – guitar; Ron Carter – bass; Billy Cobham – drums; Freddie Hubbard – trumpet; Hubert Laws – flute (“Do What You Gotta Do”); Richard Wyands – piano; Hugh Lawson – piano (“Love is the Answer”); Ray Barretto, Airto Moreira (“Love is the Answer”) – percussion; Seymour Barab, Charles McCracken, George Ricci (solo on “A Child is Born”), Lucien Schmit, Alan Shulman – cello)

Kenny Burrell is a major force as a jazz guitarist. Still performing at age 84, Burrell is a sophisticated soloist with impeccable taste and an understated talent for bringing class to any musical project. The jazz fusion years of the 1970s was not the time period best suited to Burrell’s strengths. The amalgam of rock, funk, and jazz found in fusion often overshadowed the less “showy” musical talent.

For Burrell’s sole CTI issue, the label’s owner, Creed Taylor, was wise to use strings (specifically cellos) to assist top arranger Don Sebesky in adding a classical “sophistication” to the five tracks on the LP. Side One were original Burrell compositions, while the flip side has the Thad Jones classic “A Child is Born,” and the Billie Holliday standard, “God Bless the Child.”

On the tracks featuring the cellos, (especially “A Child is Born” with an opening poignant solo by George Ricci), there is an elegance that is enhanced by Burrell, both swinging, yet moody. Kenny could also generate heat as evidenced by his compositions, “Love is the Answer” (with Airto percolating on percussion) and “Do What You Gotta Do,” where Freddie Hubbard and Hubert Laws escalate to heights well above standard fusion fare.

“Be Yourself” is sublime with electric piano fills from Richard Wyands, and a steady pulse provided by bassist Ron Carter (who is the perfect choice to back Burrell).

Once again Ray Staff has done an excellent job remastering the heady studio mix. The album cover from photographer Pete Turner was a perfect choice to add to the atmospheric music found on the album. Highly recommended!

TrackList:

Side One: Be Yourself, Love is the Answer, Do What You Gotta Do
Side Two: A Child is Born, God Bless the Child

—Jeff Krow