Kenny Burrell – Special Requests (And Other Favorites): Live At Catalina’s – HighNote HCD7252 (7/23/13) ****:
(Kenny Burrell – guitar, vocal -track12; Justo Almario – tenor saxophone, flute; Tom Ranier – piano; Tony Dumas – bass; Clayton Cameron – drums)
Long before Detroit became associated with the Motown Sound, it was a hot bed of jazz and jazz artists in the ’50s that were part of the Motor City heritage. Kenny Burrell was among those jazz musicians along with the Jones brothers (Hank/Thad/Elvin), Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers among others, all of whom built their early reputations in the city before heading to New York to look for wider recognition. Now more than fifty years later, Burrell is still going strong as evidenced by the High Note release Special Requests (And Other Favorites) Live At Catalina’s.
With a guitar style that is founded on a bebop and blues tradition, Burrell initially made his name as a go to sideman in New York with a collection of renowned jazz musicians before his initial Blue Note session as a leader in 1956. Since then he has amassed an impressive catalogue of work with some outstanding titles such as Midnight Blue and Guitar Forms. While this particular release may not be of that caliber, it nevertheless captures the guitarist in front of a live audience supported by a band of sympathetic and splendid musicians playing compositions that resonated with a broad base of his listening public.
“Killer Joe” the Benny Golson composition is a two chord frame which ultimately dissolves into a release which gives the song its lift, so says the composer in an interview with Marc Myers in his blog JazzWax dated February 09, 2012. So when the band lays down its markers with Burrell leading the way with some single notes then followed by Almario’s tenor sax solo, the enthusiastic audience knows they are in for a swinging session. Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” has a lazy Latin bite with a strong solo from Almario on flute. No session would be complete without the inclusion of some Duke Ellington material. Here Burrell and the band take on “Sunset And The Mockingbird” from The Queen’s Suite written for Queen Elizabeth II which is infrequently performed, and offers Burrell’s lyrical guitar, plus some stellar flute-work from Almario. “The Feeling Of Jazz” is given a vocal rendition by Burrell which at best is inoffensive, and is followed by “In A Sentimental Mood” with a sympathetic reading from Burrell supported by some Dukish piano voicing from Tom Rainer.
There is a potpourri of other tunes including Michel Legrand’s “The Summer Knows” which was written for the movie Summer Of ’42 with Burrell on acoustic guitar giving it a slight bossa nova context. Finally the set closes with Burrell’s own composition “Chitlins Con Carne” which is a funky blues done with a bursting approach. Backed by unfaltering band-mates, Burrell mines familiar ground with his usual style and elegance.
TrackList: Killer Joe; Little Sunflower; Make Someone Happy; Sunset And The Mockingbird; Bye Bye Blackbird; Lament; The Summer Knows; The Feeling Of Jazz; In A Sentimental Mood; Generation; Chitlins Con Carne