Kenny Burrell – The Road to Love – High Note

Kenny Burrell – The Road to Love – High Note 7284, 72:30 (10/23/15) ****:

(Kenny Burrell – acoustic and electric guitar; Justo Almario – tenor sax, flute; Tom Ranier – piano; Tony Dumas – bass; Clayton Cameron – drums; Marvin “Smitty” Smith – drums on #15; Barbara Morrison – vocals on #15, 17, 18)

Still vitally active well into his mid 80s, jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell is as dependable as one’s prized Rolex watch. As the watch can keep time impeccably, so can Kenny, but he can also inspire, and bring on a deep sense of effortless swing.

Witness his latest CD on High Note Records, recorded live at Catalina’s over this past Memorial Day weekend. With a blend of Burrell’s tunes combined with mostly well-known classics, Kenny keeps the Hollywood audience satisfied. Adding saxophonist/flutist, Justo Almario, to a crack LA-based rhythm section expands the sound palette to add some punch to Kenny’s bluesy guitar lines. It is rare to get the opportunity to hear Mr. Burrell provide commentary on a third of the eighteen tracks. It peaks a listener’s interest and provides a feeling of attending the live session.

Pianist Tom Ranier is more than an able accompanist, as he is there every step of the way with piano fills and soloing when the time is right. Reed man Almaro sets no new ground, but also fits right in and can dig in when called upon such as on the opening, “Salty Papa.” On “Serenata”  Almaro’s flute section provides a nice addition to Burrell’s Latin lines and Cameron’s percussion. I seldom tire of hearing Neal Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin’” and Kenny does not disappoint. The familiar strumming of the known melody is so sweet.

Clayton Cameron’s brush work is put to strong use on Kenny’s tune,”Brush Magic,” (likely written for Clayton, who has been with Burrell for over ten years). It’s followed by a sublime “Listen to the Dawn,” on which Almaro’s flute is ethereal. It’s a relatively rare opportunity to experience Burrell playing acoustic guitar, and on “Someone to Light Up My Life” and Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose,” Kenny puts on a clinic appropriate for a concert hall. Fortunately with warm acoustics we have a front row seat, and on headphones it would be a guitar lover’s dream.

Kenny offers a tribute to his friend, B. B. King, (who passed away just a few weeks before this live session), on “Confessin’ the Blues.” This swinging session concludes with the soulful Barbara Morrison interpreting Ellington and Billie Holiday.

Jazz guitar heaven is keeping a warm seat ready for Kenny Burrell. If we’re lucky it’ll be quite awhile before that time happens.

TrackList: Salty Papa, Serenata, Li’l Darlin, Brush Magic, Listen to the Dawn, Teach Me Tonight, Someone to Light Up My Life, Single Petal of a Rose, Confessin’ the Blues, The Road to Love, Crazy He Calls Me, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be

—Jeff Krow

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