Kenny Burrell’s catalog reveals the guitarist’s penchant for quality grooves

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Guitarist Kenny Burrell has a recording history that dates back to the mid-1950s. As an artist on the historic Blue Note label, Burrell has played with some of the most influential musicians in American history. In addition, as a bandleader, he has also created some of the best jazz songs. Songs such as “Pivot,” Midnight Blue,” and “It’s Getting Dark” are featured on “Kenny Burrell and The Jazz Giants, and all showcase Burrell’s signature style.

“Pivot” by Kenny Burrell

Almost military drumming opens the song. Within a couple measures, a swinging horn section offers a bright and swinging motif. The instrumentation is joined by an upright bass, and the song takes on a classic jazz sound. After listeners become acclimated to the full sound, it pares down and makes way for a guitar showcase.

Burrell’s guitar playing here is bubbly and nuanced. It never seems to get bogged down or rushed. During the showcase, Burrell is joined by the bass and drums. There is a soft swing to the piece.

Less than two minutes in, the soundscape allows for a trumpet solo, and while the bass and drums accompany it in much the same way as they did the guitar, the sound is different. Already listeners are getting an idea of how the title “Pivot” is working in this song.

At a little beyond the halfway point, Burrell returns with his masterful guitar work. Then, the song shifts again and puts its focus on the piano. The bass rumbles its groove, and the drums shimmer along.

A familiar motif returns at the end, and the horns sound triumphant and nimble in contrast to the bass. The turns and careful nuances of “Pivot” keep listeners engaged.

Kenny Burrell: “Midnight Blue”

The bluesy feel of this song is familiar even on the first listen. It has a little of “Green Onions” in the way it portrays its mood. The quick pace might encourage dancing in some people. The soundscape is alive with Burrell’s guitar and what sounds like a xylophone playing an exchange. It is punctuated by classic jazz drumming and an upright bass.

The way the guitar and bass mingle toward the end with the xylophone chiming in rather in the background gives the song an effective dynamic that leaves audiences wanting to hear more of the final movement or section.

“It’s Getting Dark” by Kenny Burrell

Bluesy notes return on this tune. The song creates a swaying feel that is far more blues-like than jazz, and that’s fine. Saxophone and piano get the forefront of the instrumentation. The drums and percussion are not to be missed, though. A piano punctuates the sound. There is a laidback chill to the song, even through Burrell’s solo. The series of notes work around the drumbeats, the bass thrums, and sit atop the piano’s sparkling sound. It seems as if once listeners notice the piano, the instrument strikes up its showcase. It is gentle, yet spirited. The high notes continue to sparkle until the song’s end.

When the guitar motif comes back, it sounds even more bluesy, and it is sure to have pleased many live crowds, as it is somewhat of a surprise, but it fits in, and the catchy groove is fun to hear.

Burrell’s work mentioned here is available on some of his other albums as well. For those who have never experienced Burrell’s work, and are interested in jazz, the guitarist’s projects are not to be missed. For more of Burrell’s work, visit:¬†http://store.lemonwire.com/kenny-burrell-special-request-and-other-favorites-ogv-632375725211.html

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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