Kenny Burrell wrote the music and lyrics for this vocal album, which places the 32-member Boys Choir of Harlem in the spotlight along with jazz accompaniment from Burrell's easy-to-recognize-anywhere guitar and a rhythm team of drummer Ben Riley and bassist Ray Drummond. Pianist James Williams and electric bassist Greg Ryan also lend support on specific tracks.
Recalling the arrangements Duke Pearson wrote over thirty years ago for trumpeter Donald Byrd and the 8-voice Coleridge Perkinson Choir, Burrell's draws vocal arrangements from jazz, classical, blues and gospel. Burrell, of course, performed on that classic recording, A New Perspective on Blue Note, but the differences, like the years separating them, are numerous. Work on "Love Suite" began nearly ten years ago, designed for the well-trained male voices whose ages range from 8 to 18. With perfect harmony and cherubic solo voices, The Boys Choir of Harlem offers messages about love, working together, improving, caring, always trying, drawing strength from within and among – it's a positive message about the things we can do to make our world a better place.
Burrell makes use of the acoustic guitar throughout much of the 17-section, 2-movement "Love Suite," for a more formal aura, and suiting the dramatic tone of the lyrics. One of the happier sections is titled "We Win," for which Burrell switches to the electric guitar, evoking a jazz mood to suit the joyful voices. The following section combines a lighter, Wes Montgomery guitar sound with Ryan's electric bass, as the choir shouts "Love is the answer!"
There are vocal solos from the choir throughout, and each one is impeccable. Some of the singing is done a cappella, some use a call and response pattern, and much of the work is performed as a tight unit with the youths blending their voices as seasoned veterans. The accompaniment is, for the most part, a walking bass, light swinging drum kit, and the guitar. "We Must Find A Way" incorporates Williams' piano and synthesizer, as the choir sings a hopeful message with jazz combo. The final section of the second movement of "Love Suite" is titled "Loving is a Natural High;" it brings the suite to a close with a gradual rise in volume and intensity, flavored in the gospel tradition, delivering the desired message with spoken words as well as with emotional music.
Burrell's tenure as head of jazz studies at UCLA in Southern California, and as a teacher of jazz history, a popular course on Duke Ellington, classes in music theory, improvisation, and jazz guitar, as well as his continued performance schedule around the world, have somehow turned up the inspirational fires for the 66-year-old guitarist from Detroit. Highly Recommended.