Kenny Burrell: Dream Weaver

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I recently posted on leading jazz instrumentalists who also happened to have great singing voices. I skipped the obvious ones, such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Nat King Cole, and focused instead on ones that would likely surprise you. I also didn't include my favorite musician-vocalist—Kenny Burrell. I wanted to save him for a separate post.

I have no idea whether Burrell took vocal lessons or when exactly he began singing professionally. But his talent had been widely known. In Leonard Feather's liner notes for Introducing Kenny Burrell in 1956, Feather wrote, “Kenny, who usually sings on most jobs and plans later to record vocally, says that his ambitions are to compose, to continue playing jazz guitar and to become a college teacher of music."

Throughout his long career, Burrell sang on records here and there. He sang Man We're Beat for Columbia with the Tommy Wolf Quartet in 1960. He also sang on a private recording by trumpeter Buck Clayton called Jazz at J.J.'s (Private Issue/1965) and on his own albums Lucky So and So (Concord/2000), Blue Muse (Concord/2002), 75th Birthday Bash Live (Blue Note/2006) and Special Requests (And Other Favorites): Live At Catalina's (High Note/2012).

But his finest vocal album was Weaver of Dreams. Produced by John Hammond and recorded for Columbia between October 1960 and April 1961, the tracks featured different configurations of musicians:
  • I'll Buy You a Star and Weaver of Dreams—Tommy Flanagan (p), Kenny Burrell (g,vcl), Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • Weaver of Dreams—Tommy Flanagan (p), Kenny Burrell (g,vcl), Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • The More I See You— Kenny Burrell (g,vcl) Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson.
  • I'm Just a Lucky So and So—Bobby Jaspar (ts), Tommy Flanagan (1), Kenny Burrell (g,vcl) Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • A Fine Romance—Bobby Jaspar (ts), Kenny Burrell (g) Wendell Marshall (b) Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • Until the Real Thing Comes Along—Bobby Jaspar (ts), Kenny Burrell (g/vcl), Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • The Blues Is Awful Mean—Bobby Jaspar (ts), Tommy Flanagan (p), Kenny Burrell (g,vcl), Wendell Marshall (b), and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • That Old Feeling—Bobby Jaspar (fl), Kenny Burrell (g,vcl), Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • If I Had You—Bobby Jaspar (ts), Tommy Flanagan (p), Kenny Burrell (g,vcl), Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
  • Hootchie-Koo—Bobby Jaspar (ts), Tommy Flanagan (p), Kenny Burrell (g,no vocal), Joe Benjamin (b) and Bill English (d).
  • Afternoon in Paris—Tommy Flanagan (p), Kenny Burrell (g,no vocal), Joe Benjamin (b) and Bill English (d).
  • Like Someone in Love—Kenny Burrell (g,vcl), Wendell Marshall (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d).
On this album, we're also treated to Burrell's gift for  tasteful chords. Of note, is the non-vocal track Afternoon in Paris, on which he's absolutely gorgeous. If I hosted a jazz radio show, this would be my theme. On songs such as Like Someone in Love, I'll Buy You a Star and The More I See You, Burrell's vocal phrasing is exceptional. If you didn't know the album and I gave you a blindfold test, you'd never guess it was Burrell. The extra treat is listening to him accompany himself on guitar. The guitar becomes almost a second voice.

JazzWax clips: Here's the entire album...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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