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
Vinyl: BLP 4123 NY EAR VAN GELDER DG
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!
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.
LJC ART SUPPLEMENT
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.
You need Charles Saatchi’s pockets to be an artoholic.