Guitarist Kenny Burrell Interviewed at All About Jazz!


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Kenny Burrell has appeared on so many essential jazz recordings that jazz history and his story seem irretrievably intertwined. Billie Holiday's valedictory rumination Lady Sings the Blues (Verve, 1956)? Jimmy Smith's epochal funk throwdown Back at the Chicken Shack (Blue Note, 1960)? Tony Bennett's Carnegie Hall debut? Kenny Burrell played guitar for them all. Even Jimi Hendrix once famously remarked, “Kenny Burrell—that's the sound I'm looking for."

Burrell has shown no sign of slowing down in the ensuing decades. He has led the UCLA Jazz Studies Program, featuring his own course on Ellington, since 1996. His latest release, Tenderly (HighNote, 2011), is a captivating solo performance warmed by Burrell's own spoken reflections (and vocal on “Be Yourself"). Through tributes to such major influences and colleagues as Wes Montgomery, Holiday, and Ellington, and colleagues as Wes Montgomery, Holiday, and Ellington, Tenderly writes Burrell's eloquent soliloquy on his own career.

Chris M. Slawecki spoke with Burrell recently, about the common thread shared by the disproportionate number of significant artists coming from his birthplace of Detroit. The guitarist also talks about the making of Tenderly, sharing the story behind his song choices, and goes back even further to discuss how Midnight Blue (Blue Note, 1963), with its very simple premise, has gone on to become an undisputed and influential jazz classic—all with the selfless humility that has not only defined this octogenarian's career, but can be heard in every note he plays.

Check out Kenny Burrell: Every Note Swings today at All About Jazz!

Photo Credit: Pamela Springsteen

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