Kenny Burrell: 'Midnight Blue'

The cover of Midnight Blue

[MUSIC]

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Hello, I'm Murray Horwitz. You know, there's an old saying that "simple is not always easy" and while a lot of jazzers profess an allegiance to the blues, very few can actually mine the subtleties of the classic blues form, which has twelve measures of music. Guitarist Kenny Burrell is one of those who can. And today's entry into NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library is one of the great jazzy blues records, Midnight Blue by Kenny Burrell.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: By the time this recording was made in 1963, Kenny Burrell had established himself as both a leader and sideman. Schooled in bebop, he became the go-to man for swinging rhythm accompaniment and elegant, tasteful guitar soloing. His presence livened up many so-called blowing sessions in the mid-'50s. But once he signed onto Blue Note, he was able to explore his own musical vision.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: Kenny Burrell surrounded himself with musicians who could find just the right spot by playing at lower volumes and slower tempos. There's tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, bassist Major Holley, drummer Bill English, and conguero Ray Barretto. He strips down the Latin beats into this sparse, subtle accents. Ultimately though, it's the blues that is the star of this show.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: 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. The CD is called Midnight Blue by Kenny Burrell, and it's on the Blue Note label. The NPR Basic Jazz Record Library is supported by the Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Fund. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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