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Kenny Burrell: Lucky So and So

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Difficult to say whom the title is aimed at: artist or listener. Of the more than 300 recordings guitarist Kenny Burrell has played on, this is his 96th as leader. That lucky so and so. Then consider the treasure trove of laid-back eloquence available to us. Perhaps we’re the lucky ones.

We also get to hear Burrell sing-something he hasn’t done on an album for 41 years-and the same adjectives apply: laid- back and eloquent.

For the six instrumental tracks, Burrell inspires his tasteful brand of straightahead jazz from pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Akira Tana. They are reverently supportive, laying an ideal foundation for Burrell’s single-line runs and chordal excursions, and he obligingly affords them ample stretch-out room. No one can question the impact of Burrell’s uptempo swing or his blues phrasing, but the most beautiful playing is heard on two ballads, “Tenderly” and “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Regarding the four vocals, Burrell’s approach is, not surprisingly, low-key and elegant. His baritone lacks the testosterone of Johnny Hartman, but boasts similar respect and clarity for lyrics, as heard on “My Ship.” The title tune is so relaxed, Burrell even talks a bit about its composer, Ellington, in the middle of it. But another Duke classic, “Squeeze Me,” steals the show as Burrell superimposes scat (he favors the “D” sound) over the vamp, an ostinato figure that is a half tone short of an octave.