Kenny Burrell & The Jazz Guitar Band

Pieces of Blue and the Blues

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On paper, Kenny Burrell's three-guitar band with Bobby Broom, Rodney Jones, and a bass/drums rhythm section looks pretty good. Though individually they all sound quite different, this meeting of the minds, recorded over two days in October of 1986 at the Village Vanguard, harnesses the sound of Jones to a certain degree, and lets Broom a little loose in his soulful groove tendency. All are quite competent and professional players who understand the subtleties and understated harmonic arena Burrell lives in, so things work quite well in terms of sharing the load. There's very little competition at stake, the guitarists rightfully trade space and phrases, and play few extended unison lines, so the listening is enhanced if you do pay attention. Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues" is a good warmup opener, as the acoustic guitar of Burrell sets an animated tone, then he switches to an amplified model after everyone plays several choruses. The workout tune of the set is Duke Pearson's famed "Jeannine," an energetic, chord-infused hard bopper as the three trace the melody with an occasional squiggled line. A deft solo by Jones gets the ball rolling on "Blue Days, Blue Dreams" in the most cooperative effort, everyone similarly divvies up melodic phrases during "'Round Midnight" as you'd expect, and the band has the most fun on the closer, the jam-styled "No Hype Blues." A correction is in order on the credited title "Salty Papa" with Burrell leading the band in a blues shuffle on the hybrid six-string banjo, the guitarjo. Liner note author Leonard Feather says it is an intro to a Dinah Washington record, while Burrell claims it is an old riff he and his mates played in his native Detroit. The latter statement is more true, as it is the direct melody line of the adapted traditional piece "Hastings Street Bounce" as heard on the Pepper Adams/Donald Byrd album 10 to 4 at the Five Spot. It seems this one-shot effort could be looked at via a jaundiced, too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth eye. The music is good, not particularly great or memorable, but certainly a credible effort, likely better heard at the venue on the nights in question.

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