Kenny Burrell

Blues: The Common Ground

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When it comes to Kenny Burrell, a title like Blues -- The Common Ground speaks volumes. His approach always keeps in mind the connection of jazz to the blues, infusing his guitar with a soulful, hard bop edge. Recorded in 1967 and 1968, Blues -- The Common Ground finds Burrell backed by lots of brass and wind instruments for most of the album, hardly his usual setting. But his guitar successfully weaves in and out of songs like "Every Day (I Have the Blues)" and "Burning Spear," blending with the band and creating a pleasant balance. Much of this works thanks to arranger Don Sebesky's tasteful settings. Sebesky seems to have an instinctive grasp of when to sit on the band and when to let it fly loose. There's the late-night, gentle feel of "Angel Eyes," and the more animated setup on the title cut. The only time this doesn't work is on pieces like "The Preacher" and "See See Rider," where the upbeat horns and shrill flutes remind one of a "groovy" soundtrack from a bad '60s movie. It's also interesting to note that the album's unusual song choices, like "Everydays" by Stephen Stills, do find common ground in the blues. There's a beautiful, short solo piece, "Were You There?," and two quartet pieces, "Sausalito Nights" and "Soulful Brothers." Blues -- The Common Ground holds up well, and the 2001 reissue offers Burrell fans a cleaned-up version of this fine album.

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