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This period of Kenny Burrell's career found the guitarist playing more and better than ever. But he had long before abandoned his high-profile role as house guitarist for Prestige and Blue Note (in the 1950s and 1960s) and as a studio guitarist on a staggering number of jazz, pop and film dates (during the 1960s). By the late 1970s, he was devoting more of his time to his role as an educator (at UCLA, where he still is today) and concentrating on his leadership duties as a solo artist and trio leader. Much of his music from this period - recorded primarily for the Muse label - remains unavailable.
But 12*18*78 reissues two of these Muse records, Live At The Village Vanguard and Kenny Burrell In New York, and collects them in one attractive package. The guitarist is heard in particularly excellent form with an especially compatible trio featuring Larry Gales on bass and the wonderful Sherman Ferguson on drums.
Throughout, he's heard exclusively on his electric axe - though studio sessions at this time found him alternating with acoustic. On electric guitar, Burrell had early on achieved and proffered a signature sound, very much in evidence on the predominantly standards-based set heard here.
Burrell has always made New York's Village Vanguard a regular stop in his travels. And it's not hard to figure out why. There is an atmosphere that Max Gordon (who comes briefly to the mike, courtesy of Burrell) established that really inspires Burrell to some of his finest work. It is evident in how beautifully he phrases "Willow Weep For Me" and "In The Still Of The Night." It also shines through in his swinging renditions of such staples as "Bags Groove," "Makin' Whoopee" and "Work Song." Burrell's ever-loving acknowledgement of Ellington here provides beautiful takes of "Don't You Know I Care" and "Love you Madly."
For those that have never had the luxury of hearing the ever-consummate Kenny Burrell in an intimate atmosphere like the Vanguard, 12*15*78 is nothing short of pure pleasure. It is jazz at its creative finest. What may surprise listeners familiar with so much of his other work, however, is how ideal a contribution 12*15*78 is to the legacy of Kenny Burrell, one of the finest and most natural guitarists to ever contribute to the beauty of jazz.
Songs:Second Balcony Jump; Willow Weep For me; Work Song; Woody n' You; In The Still Of The Night; Medley: Don't You Know I Care?/Love you Madly; It's Getting Dark; Pent Up House; But Beautiful; Bags Groove; Makin' Whoopee; Come Rain or Come Shine; Love Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere.
Players:Kenny Burrell: guitar; Larry Gales: bass; Sherman Ferguson: drums.