KENNY BURRELL — Midnight Blue

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KENNY BURRELL - Midnight Blue cover
4.57 | 11 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1963

Filed under Blues


A1 Chitlins Con Carne 5:26
A2 Mule 6:55
A3 Soul Lament 2:40
A4 Midnight Blue 4:00
B1 Wavy Gravy 5:45
B2 Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You 4:22
B3 Saturday Night Blues 6:15


- Kenny Burrell / guitar
- Stanley Turrentine / tenor saxophone
- Major Holley / bass
- Billy Gene English / drums
- Ray Barretto / congas

About this release

Blue Note ‎– BLP 4123 (US)

Recorded on January 7, 1963 , Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Thanks to EntertheLemming, snobb, Matt for the updates


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In the early 60s, jazz artists cutting a blues album was not an uncommon thing at all. Jimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine and others put out some of their most successful albums during this time by applying their be-bop chops to some well known blues changes. In early 1963, when Kenny Burrell approached Blue Note head, Alfred Lion, about cutting a blues album, this propisition probably came as no surprise to Lion who was more than happy to let Kenny in the studio to create his blues masterpiece, “Midnight Blue”. The title of this album tells you everything you need to know, this is definitely late night blues with an emphasis on laid back tempos and soulful solos, as opposed to extroverted blazing technique. The band Kenny assembled on here was perfect for the date, with the aforementioned Stanley Turrentine on tenor, Ray Barretto on congas, Major Holley Jr on bass and the understated Bill English on the traps.

Although all of these tracks could be labeled as laid back blues, there is some variety to keep things from becoming too stodgy or predictable. “Wavy Gravy” is notable for being that rare blues tune in waltz time, while other closing and opening tracks on both sides of this record pick up the tempo into a medium swing groove. “Soul Lament” features Kenny on his own, and “Gee Baby ain’t I Good to You” is the only standard, but it too is essentially a blues song. The best thing about this album is its rock solid integrity, drop the needle anywhere you want and you will get the same feeling, no matter the tempo. This is one very sure artistic vision about the blues from start to finish. Even the instrumentation backs up this album’s cohesion, an added piano player would have made things too cluttered, and a B3 player would have made things syrupy and heavy handed, everything is exactly in its place as it ought to be. The addition of Barretto’s subtle conga work is the icing on the cake, as these sort of slow tempos need a little double time action to help keep the groove together.

Although the current ‘vinyl revival’ seems a bit hokey and fabricated by salesmen, its still nice that you can now buy classic jazz records in pristine condition for an almost reasonable price.
Not often this type of album comes along, one that has quite a different Quintet with the omission of piano or organ in the line-up and the addition of Ray Barretto on conga but it is not Latin rythmns that Ray employs throughout the album "Midnight Blue" but really one could say he adds the grease addition to this southern sounding late night album which was recorded back in January 1963 with Kenny Burrell leading, playing a gorgeous picked Jazz, Blues guitar and writing 75% of the material, Stanley Turrentine blowing his gruff blues tenor saxophone, Major Holly Jr is on bass, Bill English drumming and Ray as mentined above with more tapping than whacking the congas. The Blues is the backbone of this session and all done as the title implies with that Midnight feeling by Kenny Burrell. This was Kenny's eighth project as leader at Blue Note and he requested to do this Blues style session with Alfred Lion and after the album's release over time it has been recognised as one with the classic Blue Note sound as well as one of Kenny's most popular if not the most popular.

"Chitlins Con Carne" is the first of the seven compositions that were originally on the album's release with Stanley on tenor providing the intro and Kenny taking the first solo with superb crisp precision where Stanley follows with some nice wailing with Kenny jabbing in now and again over what is a reasonably quick tempo although one seems not to notice how quick things are moving but with "Mule" that follows laid back and nice and slow is the tempo with Kenny providing beautiful picking with just the right space and with a light drum roll form Bill English, Stanley follows with his slow burner on tenor saxophone which hits some great highs at times but not too many as this is midnight. Number three on the album is "Soul Lament" being the shortest composition on the album with Kenny providing a longing and lament within his spaced slow solo where he cuts back to the theme at the end. The album title " Midnight Blue" is another more up- tempo number on the album with Kenny just riding over the top of the rythmn section with another brilliant spaced solo for the entire number with not even a note form Stanley's tenor to be heard but not so with the next "Wavy Gravy" and the titles that Kenny named his numbers with on the album are so accurate with their description of music within but it is Stanley with Kenny coming in and out that sets the mood for this blues tune with Kenny going first and Stanley following with more of his blues drenched tenor playing. "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You is the only standard number within the album and the aptly titled "Saturday Night Blues" is the album closer but if you have the cd and not the record there are two outakes from the session included as well.

Essential Jazz, essential Blue Note and an essential Kenny Burrell album to own. Nuff said, as this is a total on its own late night Jazz masterpiece. Get it,even your wife will like it.

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