Kenny Burrell’s career has spanned over seven decades, over 250 recordings and has performed with most of the "who’s, who" of the jazz industry. With an artist that has such a plethora of material, sometimes checking out the "best of" albums can be helpful in getting to know the artist. With the 2005 release of The Best of Kenny Burrell by Fantasy Records, spanning 1957 to 1963, we have the opportunity to hear an overview of Kenny Burrell’s early years.
On the eight tracks, you will hear a strong influence of Charlie Christian, demonstrated by Burrell’s clearly articulated solo lines and his frequent quote of a five-note-descending figure, popularized by Christian. Burrell often chooses to "say more with less," seeming to be more conscious of the overall flow and swing of the song than engaging in an empty display of technique.
A swinging mid-tempo version of "I’ll Close My Eyes" starts the disc, with Burrell delivering a nice smooth statement of the melody. His use of glissandos into held notes and sweeps of arpeggios are very effective in building the solo, but in a relaxed swinging manner.
"All of You" is another highlight of the collection. The unaccompanied intro and A sections of the melody really allow the listener to hear Burrell’s guitar sound, which is clear and ringing. Burrell taps his low string to create a pedal tone in which he lightly plays strummed chords above in the intro, and chords along with the melody for the A sections. The song unfolds in a very elegant manner, with the rhythm section of Tommy Flanagan (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums) building the ballad to a mid-tempo swing for the majority of Burrell’s thoughtful solo.
The collection of tunes highlights a wide variety of styles and tempos. The various ensembles and instrumentation keep the album flow enjoyable to the ears. The recording is clear and warm sounding, with six of the eight tracks recorded by Rudy Van Gelder.
The Best of Kenny Burrell would defiantly be a nice addition to the CD collection. Set back and relax and let this understated master of the six string take you on a journey filled with taste and elegance.