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Kenny Burrell: Unlimited 1

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The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited’s mission is multifold, as Kenny Burrell, a codirector of the ensemble, has explained. The LAJOU intends to function as both a repertoire orchestra and as a conduit for new large-ensemble compositions, and to spark the creation of jazz orchestras around the United States. The band is off to a good start with its debut recording, which documents a multi-night stint at Catalina’s in Hollywood. Burrell and company offer performances of fresh arrangements of classic material as well as new compositions by the revered guitarist and others.

Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” arranged by LAJOU saxophonist Hitomi Oba, benefits from saxophone-section passages constructed from the composer’s solo on the original recording. Burrell opens “Strayhorn Medley” solo, with typically lush, blues-streaked readings of “Passion Flower” and “Take the ‘A’ Train,” before the band jumps in on the latter tune, replete with a trumpet-section reading of Ray Nance’s original solo. Barbara Morrison’s rambunctious vocals top a hard-swinging take on Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” spiked with one of the most energetic Burrell solos on the disc.

The leader’s “Be Yourself,” inspired by Ellington, is a slinky, laidback swinger yielding impressive solo turns by Burrell and trombonist Nick DePinna, while Burrell also offers the melancholy ballad “Remembering,” which he leads with pleasantly husky vocals, and the uptempo, Don Sickler-arranged “Fourth Dimensions (AKA Kenny’s Sound).” Latin flavors color trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez’s “Mama Ya Ya” and “Adelante!,” while Richard Evans’ moody “Soulero” gains from a gradually intensifying, layered structure and solo turns by saxophonist Scott Mayo and drummer Clayton Cameron. Unlimited 1 calls for a sequel.

Originally Published