Half Notes: Kenny Burrell – Be Yourself (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Like another longtime legend Barry Harris, guitar great Kenny Burrell cuts a live disc that proves he’s still got what it takes to live up to his immense reputation. Recorded over a week-long engagement at one of NYC’s hottest jazz spot’s, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Burrell assembled a band players young (24 year old saxophonist/flautist Tivon Petticott makes an impressive recording debut here), and vets like drummer Clayton Cameron and Jazz Messengers alums Benny Green (piano) and Peter Washington (bass). Burrell’s blues-based lyrical style has been just about as influential as Wes Montgomery — Jimi Hendrix once said “Kenny Burrell, that’s the sound I’m looking for” –and it’s almost tempting to dismiss his playing as highly derivative, until you realize he’s the guy who other jazz guitarists are copying their style from! The selections here provide a nice assessment of Burrell’s career. “Tin Tin Deo” was a tune he recorded with Dizzy Gillespie way back in 1951, and “Raincheck” and “In A Sentimental Mood” continue Burrell’s long running love affair with the music of Duke Ellington. Kenny Dorham’s evergreen standard “Blue Bossa” is given a more festive treatment than when you usually hear and Burrell suave, soulful solo is all the proof needed of why he’s the master. More proof comes on the guitar-only Burrell original “Be Yourself.” An apt title for the whole album, too: Be Yourself is Kenny Burrell being who he has been over a nearly sixty year recording career, which is more than enough to make this a fine record.

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