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January 18, 2011

"Midnight Blue" - Kenny Burrell

My vinyl buying habits have taken to the back burner in the last year. I usually frequent Mississippi Records in Portland -- no bushleague to be found there. A lot of vintage/thrift stores in Portland have stacks upon stacks of vinyl, usually not worth fingering through for my refined taste. Over the weekend, in an effort to buy a mid-century coffee table, I stumbled across a Van Gelder Mastering reissue (sporting the blue label with a black "b") of Kenny Burrell's
Midnight Blue. The very first record in the front of a large stack of records -- price: $5. The sleeve is higher G lower VG condition (depending on your standards), but the disc plays gloriously.

A digital copy of
Midnight Blue exists in my iTunes library and has always gotten modest play. When I arrived home on Sunday afternoon I played this on the turntable right away. With the warm sound, mild crackling, and the vast range of lows and highs from my Bose speakers, I was really taken to a new level for this album.

Along with NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library, Midnight Blue has appeared on numerous best of, must have, definitive lists. On a near nine year post, Murray Horwitz offers a perfect visual assessment:
I know a lot of folks with vinyl copies of this record who wore out the grooves. It's the perfect "late night, neon light flashing outside of the window, cigarette smoke swirling up into nothing" record.

Despite the great music, the typography and cover design by Reid Miles is just world class. The elasticity of the text "blue" is symbolic of the notes contained inside the packing. Touted by many others that this is one of the most memorable Blue Note cover designs. One that has had vast influence on modern design.

While wearing a hard bop hat, the blues couldn't be played any better than this crew here. Every note played, every conga and drum head hit, all in near flawlessness. The rhythm is rich and straight ahead showing that often times less can be more with subtle conga accents from Ray Barretto. The lack of a piano on this date simplifies the 12 bars blue format. And the fat, ever stretching tones of Stanley Turrentine act as the perfect complement to Burrell's liquid smooth guitar chops.

1963 - Blue Note.
Kenny Burrell - guitar; Stanley Turrentine - Tenor Saxophone; Major Holley - Bass; Billy Gene English - Drums; Ray Barretto - Conga.


spoony said...

Awesome album. I love playing the album on late, quiet nights. However, I am not sure where to go with Burrell from there. Any suggestions?

Matthew DiTullo said...

Kenny Burrell has so many great sessions on Blue Note. I'd recommend the double volume Blue Lights. It has a killer personnel featuring the great Tina Brooks, solid rhythms by Art Blakey, soulful phrasing by Bobby Timmons.

Also, Burrell recorded a record with John Coltrane in 1958 for Prestige records. It's pretty solid stuff!

Also, as a sideman, I'd recommend Thad Jones' Detroit-New York Junction, Jimmy Smith's House Party & Home Cookin'.

....Thanks for reading!