John Coltrane / Kenny Burrell

John Coltrane with Kenny Burrell

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This double-LP set should not be confused with the similarly-monikered Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (1958). Listeners will find both that March of 1958 confab as well as another four Tommy Flanagan originals from an April of 1957 meeting between Burrell (guitar), Coltrane (tenor sax), Idrees Sulieman (trumpet), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums). Taking the contents in a chronological fashion, the April 18, 1957 session presents Coltrane as the primary player. The brisk Caribbean feel of "Eclypso"offers an excellent launch pad for the dual leads of Coltrane and the honey-toned Sulieman. While Burrell's contributions to "Solacium" are more prominent and refined, the stylish arrangement sparkles, particularly during the bookended solos of Flanagan at the top and Burrell right before the full ensemble joins up for a final chorus. Sulieman is behind the wheel of the assembled sextet through the straight-ahead bop masterpiece "Minor Mishap." Coltrane is frisky as he all but challenges the equally eager guitarist, who responds with his own fretwork fluidity. The final entry of the outing, "Tommy's Tune," is perhaps Flanagan's finest included composition and the midtempo bluesy backdrop is sublime for all the respective parties to have their sonic say. The proceedings then turn to the following March of 1958 when Burrell is leader of a quintet boasting Coltrane, Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums) and once again Tommy Flanagan (piano). Rather than supplying all the songs, the set is split between a pair from Flanagan, two tunes out of the Great American Songbook of popular music, and a Kenny Burrell original. Flanagan's spirited "Freight Trane" lifts off as Coltrane's less than inspired blows are bolstered by Burrell's confident and precise picking. Likewise, Chambers' bowed bass is worthy of special mention as it gives the piece an almost indescribably organic quality. Gus Kahn and Ted Fio Rito's "I Never Knew" is a delight as Burrell demonstrates his unmarred dexterity. The guitarist's own "Lyresto" should not be missed as Coltrane's aching lyricism nuzzles up against the sweetness in Burrell's string work. Unquestionably, the intimate fragility that imbues "Why Was I Born" stands as a singular event with Burrell and Coltrane finding themselves musically entwined with only each other as support. On the whole, John Coltrane with Kenny Burrell (1974) offers four LP sides of truly exceptional stuff for all manner of jazz enthusiast.

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