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'Round Midnight

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The Maturity of Understated Jazz

    The CD re-issue of a Kenny Burrell session is archetypal of why the master guitarist is a favorite of heavy-hitter jazz musicians and casual listeners alike. Mr. Burrell has always been the epitome of understatement, leaving show-offy technique for its own sake to the neophytes and their fans. Unlike some "jazz" guitarists (and reviewers)who confuse lots o' notes with creativity, Kenny Burrell has never forgotten that the roots of jazz is the blues, and his understated maturity of expression on this album reflects that blues-based tradition. As John Coltane stated concerning his "Ballads" album, just having the technique to play blazingly fast notes isn't artistry; it's what's between the notes --the spaces, the pauses, the good editing of what to leave out as well as what to include in a song's performance-- that is most challenging and satisfying. Such disparate guitarists as BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn all said that "Kenny Burrell is my favorite guitarist." Although Burrell, as a jazz guitarist, sounds nothing like those other gentlemen (nor does his guitar) such praise reflects the universality of Burrell's artistry and attraction. Perhaps a final analogy will summarize: There are those who think that a screaming, mugging, bad comedic "actor" is a "better" performer than was Laurence Olivier whispering a Shakespearean soliloqy, because the former shows "fireworks." Yes, well, substitute "Burrell" for "Olivier" and you'll understand why when Kenny Burrell plays a gig, the jazz giants are there as fans.

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