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10/21/13

Kenny Burrell
Special Requests (And Other Favorites): Live at Catalina's
HighNote Records

Naturally, guitar great Kenny Burrell serves up “Chitlins Con Carne” on this 2012 concert date. (Would the crowd let him walk off stage without playing that tune?) And naturally among the promised “special requests and other favorites” is some Ellingtonia, which has always ranked high on the list of Burrell’s favorite things.

Among the three homages devoted to Ellington here is a quietly evocative version of the under-appreciated ballad “Sunset and the Mockingbird,” from The Queen Suite. The performance, a six-minute rhapsody in blue that suits Burrell’s kindred sensibilities and expressive phrasing perfectly, also serves as an apt preface to an effortlessly swinging rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird.” That tune proves a delightful showcase for Burrell’s chordal soloing and the complementary support fashioned by pianist Tom Ranier, saxophonist Justo Almario, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Clayton Cameron.

Nothing, however, proves more hauntingly soulful than Burrell’s exquisite rendering of J.J. Johnson’s “Lament,” which slowly progresses from solo recital to a brush-stroked elegy prominently featuring Ranier’s artful touch. Ranier also contributes to Burrell’s lovely acoustic guitar arrangement of “The Summer Knows,” accented neatly by drummer Cameron. Burrell saves “Chitlins Con Carne” for last, of course, but prior to that he and the band pay tribute to Ellington again, this time with a subtly articulated performance of “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Originally published in October 2013
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