Kenny Burrell (b.1931) is known for his sweet bluesy tone and tasteful phrasing. He’s played with most of the jazz greats including John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins and Jimmy Smith and released countless records over the years. One of his finest albums, and the one he is best known for is Midnight Blue (1963). Below I’ve included a couple of examples of his playing from the title track. The two extracts illustrate his ideas over the eight bar bridge section of the tune. Listen to the record to absorb his nuances and tone.
In 1958 Burrell led a septet session for Blue Note which produced two records: Blue Lights Volumes 1&2. They were later reissued in 1997 with a different track order but retaining the original Andy Warhol artwork. Most of the tracks are fairly lengthy to accommodate the number of soloists involved, Burrell’s contributions are tasteful and refined throughout. Below I’ve included a transcription of his two-chorus solo on his blues composition entitled Yes Baby.
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The Blue Lights session also gave rise to a masterful rendering of the Vernon Duke ballad Autumn In New York. Burrell’s thirty-two bar solo is one of the album’s high points, and illustrates the qualities which make Burrell so highly regarded by his peers. His tone, particularly during the era in which this recording was made, is one of the most subtle and attractive electric guitar sounds ever heard. Burrell combines simple diatonic passages with faster bebop derived flourishes. In bar thirteen of his solo he includes a humorous reference to the nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel with the familiar tune transplanted into the minor mode. He makes compelling use of expressive slides throughout, and paces his solo brilliantly. The highly effective piano accompaniment is provided by Bobby Timmons. He is careful not to get in the way of Burrell’s guitar.