Recorded July 31, 2006 with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra on hand and many friends in the audience, Kenny Burrell's birthday bash brings out timeless memories. The occasion was the guitarist's 75th birthday. Comfortable in any setting, he works with smaller groups for half the program and a big band for the rest.
Like Burrell's storied career, this album covers a lot of territory. The music of Ellington is a given with the guitarist, who at UCLA developed the first regular college course on Ellington ever taught in the United States; as are bebop classics from those years when modern jazz first split off from swing. Thanks to Wilson and his orchestra, this birthday celebration also includes blues, Basie and several heartfelt ballads.
Flutist Hubert Laws and Burrell interpret J.J. Johnson's "Lament with a veteran's measure of soul that warms the room considerably. With a trio, the guitarist tackles Wayne Shorter's "Footprints and Miles Davis' "All Blues eloquently. Organist Joey DeFrancesco duets with Burrell on a fresh ballad reading of "I'll Close My Eyes that gets to the heart of the matter.
DeFrancesco joins him again for Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia along with flutist Laws, alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton, tenor saxophonist Herman Riley (who, sadly, passed away in April at the age of 73), bassist Roberto Miranda and drummer Clayton Cameron. It's an extended romp that allows plenty of room for solos by all: a summit meeting of close friends.
The album closes with Burrell's vocal reading of Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train, on which he mentions his friends in doctored lyrics as they join him on the bandstand once again. Now, that's the way to celebrate your birthday!
Bandleader Wilson, who will turn 89 on September 4th, 2007, continues to bring us the best in big band adventure. He and Burrell both know what a pleasure it is to celebrate this music and to keep the jazz flame alive in your heart. Moreover, they continue to reinvent themselves through teaching, writing, performing, and sharing. They've found the mythical Fountain of Youth and continue to drink from its waters with each birthday.
Track Listing: Viva Tirado; Stormy Monday/Blues for the Count; Romance; Love You Madly; Sophisticated Lady; Don
Personnel: Kenny Burrell: guitar, vocals (2, 12); Jeff Clayton: alto sax (10, 12); Herman Riley: tenor sax (10, 12); Roberto Miranda: bass (7-9), congas (10); Clayton Cameron: drums (7-12); Hubert Laws: flute (8, 10, 12); Joey DeFrancesco: organ (10-12); Gerald Wilson Orchestra (1-6): Ron Barrows: trumpet; Steve Hufsteter:; trumpet; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Snooky Young: trumpet; Les Benedict: trombone; Garnett Brown: trombone; Maurice Spears: trombone; Mike Wimberly: trombone; Kamasi Washington: alto sax; Randall Willis: alto sax, flute; Carl Randall: tenor sax; Louis Van Taylor: tenor sax, flute; Jack Nimitz: baritone sax; Anthony Wilson: guitar (1); Brian O
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