Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue (1963) Blue Note


Selection: Chitlins con carne (Burrell)


Stanley Turrentine (ts) Kenny Burrell (g) Major Holley Jr. (b) Bill English (d) Ray Barretto (congas) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 8, 1963


Late-night smokey, bluesey and swingin’, here’s a Blue Note I have been meaning to get around to posting, probably the best known work of master instrumentalist and historic figure of American guitar, Kenny Burrell. Burrell’s seventh title for Blue Note, Midnight Blue was one of the first Blue Notes in my collection. Jazzy blues or bluesy jazz, not boundary pushing stuff, but a solid example of the Blue Note sound.

To put down a marker, this would have been recorded originally in stereo and folded down into mono. Discuss. (I’ll go put the kettle on). Whether that is relevant, audio wise, this was a superb Van Gelder recording session, and among the first records to send me down the audiophile path of Blue Note “originals”. The atmosphere is warm and intimate, Van Gelder achieves great depth of sound with lots of air around each instrument. The drums and conga have immediate presence, Turrentine’s saxophone is big and soulful, while Burrell’s hanging chords and elegant lead lines and  have all the warmth of vintage tube amps. It is perfect late night listening, musicians in the room, pure class.

Burrell’s artist profile from Verve notes:

He has remained constant in his quest to get the most out of a natural, low-volume, acoustic sound. “My audience has developed so that they come to listen and are quiet,” he explains. “Thus I can work in a limited volume range and explore all the subtleties that can happen, which is my favourite part of the music.”

Between them, Kenny Burrell and Grant Green have most jazz guitar bases covered with their lyrical and linear melodic style and smooth tone – stylistically the complete antithesis of raunchy blues-rock guitar, with its distortion, sustain, upper register note-bending and vibrato. If anything it is Turrentine that adopts the blues guitar model. Rather, Burrell is cool, soulful and swingin’

Recording since 1956, now at the age of 82 and  weighed down with awards and academic honours, America’s “guitar laureate”  Burrell is still standing and performing.

Cover: Reid Miles solid graphic design, but not a Warhol


A curiosity – to my knowledge the only Blue Note Plastylite pressing with a machine stamped matrix/catalogue number. What went on here? Deep groove on both sides in 1963 is not usually a good sign either. According to some experienced sellers the original should be deep groove on side two only. Either way it is not as sought after as Burrell’s earlier Blue Notes with Andy Warhol cover designs, which for some reason fetch up to nearly $3,000. It’s not like they were actual Andy Warhols, but sentiment does strange things to people. Warhol cover!



Collectors Corner

WOC: It’s a Schmidt. Midnight Blue must have sold well as it isn’t considered rare and I have seen it around quite a few times. The lack of a Warhol cover may explain it – helps keep it one of the more affordable Burrell titles. Some of his earlier Blue Notes have more pulling power for me due to the appearance of Tina Brooks, but original 1500 series Blue Notes get very expensive, not for the faint-hearted.


I have bid and lost on all of these three. Little did I know at the time I was up against art collectors as well as jazz collectors.


 It was not just Blue Note that Warhol designed for – there is a raft of other jazz records that benefit from the Warhol design touch – Prestige and  RCA


Looking closer, I discover there is an industry of Warhol cover collectors and sellers. The famous 16rpm Prestige Trombone By Three will set you back nearly $1,000 per trombone.  Art Collectors seem to have deeper pockets than jazz collectors. Don’t seem right somehow.

warhol 16 2500USDCapture

You need Charles Saatchi’s pockets to be an artoholic.

19 thoughts on “Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue (1963) Blue Note

  1. I also had the chance to see Burrell with his trio in the late 80’s, it was a fantastic show, much better even than my expectations. No one has mentioned that Midnight Blue is the record Alfred Lion mentioned as his favorite Blue Note record (can’t remember where I read the interview).

  2. Regarding the whole mono vs stereo debate, I don’t have strong feelings either way. Personally, I don’t consider the monos from this period a fold-down. Perhaps mix-down is a better term. I believe it was in Cohen’s book that RVG mentioned that the whole reason things were recorded in two track stereo was to make the mono sound better. That seems to imply a better ability to mix the two channels together, not simply press a button folding them together.

    As for me, I will buy both mono or stereo first or second pressings in general excellent condition. I don’t discriminate. Perhaps a slight lean towards mono with Plastylite and stereo for early Liberty probably due to the cutting chain at both.

    • Absolutely spot on description of RVG’s stereo intentions. Though I have to say the resultant stereo is wonderful.
      I’ve loved this album since before I bought it, having picked up a copy of ‘Wavy Gravy’ from on 45 from Wimbledon Oxfam in 1985 as a 16 year old. The full album didn’t disappoint and it remains one of my favourite albums.
      I saw Burrell and Turrentine live on a package tour at the London Dominion at about the same time, in a quartet with Jimmy Smith. I wish I could remember more of the gig, but I’m glad I was there.

  3. Congrats, LJC. Your copy of Kenny Burrell’s is the real thing. With Fred Cohen’s book in hand I can confirm that a 1st pressing of 4123 should have deep groove on both sides, the Plastylite ‘ear’, and Van Gelder stamped in the dead wax. Moreover: Fred Cohen specifically mentions that 4123’s catalogue number is stamped -not etched- in the dead wax.

    The only other release that also carries a stamped catalogue number is 4125, which is Lou Donaldson’s “Good Gracious”. In other words: with this Burrell acquisition you hit the jackpot 🙂

    It goes without saying that Midnight Blue is another staple in the BN catalogue and, as others already mentioned, it makes for a perfect moment to light another Cohiba, pour a third single malt and lay your feet on the table while the Mrs. is out with her friends 🙂

    • Matty,

      Again, Cohen states that there is really no way to be 100% sure if titles with or without deep grooves after 4059 are originals and I agree with this. But I won’t bother getting the book out to quote it (p. 77) because this really just follows from common sense.

      There doesn’t seem to be any reason whatsoever that Plastylite would continue to favor deep groove centers after they got a hold of centers without deep grooves, and the notion that post-4059 copies are originals is solely due to the fact that the deep groove centers were the only ones being used prior to 4059 (at one point I had only seen non-deep groove review copies post-4059 and was inclined to believe that exactly the opposite was true–that the NON-deep groove copies were originals–but at this point I have seen both deep groove and non-deep groove review copies post-4059 so that theory is out the window). The only thing that would be left to merely *suggest* (but not prove) that one or the other are originals would be vinyl weight, and on more than one occasion I have seen post-4059 Plastylite copies with deep grooves that weigh much less than Plastylite copies of the same title without deep grooves. So if anything, one might conclude from this that post-4059 non-deep grooves are actually originals, but I’m not about to do that. So if the catalog number is higher than 4059, both pressings should both be considered originals in my humble opinion. Cohen probably chose to address the instances in which there *are* deep grooves in his book because the market has dogmatically believed that deep grooves are originals for so long that any evidence indicating otherwise probably wouldn’t impact the market anyway because people don’t want to take the time to understand the issue and they’re just going to believe what they wanna believe.

        • I fully understand what you’re saying, DG Mono, and I of course have read the same thing in Fred’s book. Also on Al’s Jazzcollector it’s been discussed plenty of times. Let me say that I agree with you. BUT: for me Fred’s list in the book is leading, ’cause it’s my opinion that you have to draw a line somewhere. As you know Fred points out every detail per catalogue number and it’s because of exactly that list that I say that LJC’s copy is the real thing.

          On the other hand, it’s also a personal thing (and I think that’s where we meet each other in the middle) ’cause there’s something to the deep groove that makes a pressing a bit more ‘real’ and ‘original’, simply because -and there you have it- they look beautiful! 😀

  4. I have acquired some 10″ Jazz LPs in wonderful condition. They’re all original 50s Blue Note, Prestige and Clef pressings. Pushed by a nutty completest urge that I’m sure some of you relate, I would like to marry them up with the original generic or company inner sleeves they were originally manufactured with.
    Whenever I have bought a 1950s 10” it’s never come with an original inner though I suspect that most companies must have used them and the customers discarded them as the American 10” LP covers are very tight and would have been difficult to insert a disc and an inner into.
    The 10” USA pressings I’ve recently acquired and would like to find the correct inner sleeves for are:
    Thelonious Monk: Genius Of Modern Music [Blue Note LP 5002] 1951
    Thelonious Monk: Genius Of Modern Music Vol. 2 [Blue Note LP 5009] 1952
    Wardell Gray: Tenor Sax Favorites [Prestige PRLP 115] 1951
    Thelonious Monk Trio: Thelonious [Prestige PRLP 142] 1953
    Wardell Gray: Los Angeles All Stars [Prestige PRLP 147] 1953
    Billie Holiday: An Evening With Billie Holiday [Clef MGC -144] 1953
    Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker [Clef MGC-157] 1954
    Billie Holiday: Billie Holiday [Clef MGC-161] 1954

    This wonderful site and the great LJC have been so helpful in solving my collecting puzzles that I hope you can help me out again.

    • I’m not sure about the BN and Prestiges but I aquired some Columbia 10″ and they had “rice paper” as original inner sleeves. The discs were like new some I’m quite sure it’s what they came with.

  5. A very fine pianoless performance. As you point out, a very engaging blues set, ideal for late night listening. I particularly enjoy Saturday Night Blues, with its well-judged tenor sax solo from Stanley Turrentine. ‘Bluesy Burrell’ (reissued as ‘Out of This World’) and featuring Tommy Flanagan on piano, with the great Coleman Hawkins adding sax on several tracks, is another Kenny Burrell gem from just before this (1962). Strangely, my RVG edition evil silver disc lists the date of recording date as April 21, 1967- but this is an error.

  6. Well, the Warhol covers are so gorgeous it almost doesn’t matter what’s inside. And I imagine that that it precisely what some ‘artoholics’ think. BUt put that aside – your sample made me think of buying this LP — for the very first time! And maybe I will. Make mine a martini, please, and put another blonde on the sofa. Oh, you did. Well, not that one – that one. Good man.

  7. Kenny is usually the country gentleman. But one night at Yoshi’s nightclub in Oakland, CA., his bass player (a guy he often picks up when playing the San Francisco Bay Area), got lost during a song. Burrell grabbed the sheet music and swiftly handed it to him, with a rather annoyed look on his face. Thankfully, the bass guy got back on track and the rest of the show went off without a hitch.

  8. I love this album personally, despite the non-Warhol cover. Always enjoy the learning bits you include too, will employ those bits in my search for a nice copy, thanks!

  9. Although I don’t write a comment every single post in this blog, I read all of them. As a jazz musician and record collector, I love this one, and I learned a lot playing over it. Anyway, thanks for the blog and for sharing your collection!

  10. I attended a small club night with Kenny Burrell in late August 1980.
    San Francisco, Keystone Corner, just a few days before Bill Evans’ last concerts before his death in the same venue. people were silent, interested, very next to the musicians. no shouting nor hissing: just the music and his lovers.
    lovely night, emotion still in me.

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