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I just wanted to freeze this moment in jazz history. The physical, the emotional, the complete impact that the Kenny Burrell Quintet had on his audience at Catalina’s Bar & Grill the week of January 30th through February 4th, 2001 in Los Angeles, California was priceless. Accompanying the great guitarist, educator, and jazz icon was Ricky Woodard on tenor saxophone, Sherman Ferguson on drums, Gerald Wiggins on piano and Roberto Miranda on acoustic bass. You had to be there....That night at Catalina’s was great! Kenny Burrell, handsome, elegant, tall and refined, dressed in a dark blazer and blue shirt and red tie, opened his one and one half hour set to a full house. You could hear a pin drop when the Quintet launched into the opening jam. “Tenderly” a pure, melodic piece punctuated with excellent rhythmic conversations by Sherman Ferguson on drums is set to appear on Kenny Burrell’s new CD to be released in a couple of months. Bill Davis’ composition, “Mark One” featured an excellent solo by Gerald Wiggins and was met with a robust round of applause. This was a historic meeting of five of the West Coast’s most incredible music makers! Kenny Burrell spoke to his audience; expressing his love of music from all eras of jazz, and the fact “that it doesn’t matter how old it is, but how great it is.” Kicking into Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower,” the audience could hardly contain itself as Burrell and Company expressed each note with a priceless melodic experience. It was absolutely beautiful. Kenny Burrell’s melodic strumming was joined by Ferguson’s understanding of the chord improvisations. Wiggins added his interpretations of the melody with beautifully improvised piano statements that set the tones for Ricky Woodard’s excellent saxophone lines. The Kenny Burrell Quintet played as one musical mind; mesmerizing the audience for nearly 10 minutes as the Quintet expressed the beauty of this great song. Burrell’s tones were sweet, loving, melodic, and all-encompassing. It was truly an emotional experience and the audience fell in love with Kenny Burrell, and the song, again...and again. On Chick Corea’s “Tones For Joan’s Bones,” Burrell pulled this audience into his musical conversations between Ferguson and himself and we remained in this "wink" at the wondrous past of Corea. Burrell’s guitar tones, Wiggins' strides on the piano and Miranda’s bass improvisations were truly memorable and gave the audience an in depth picture of the glorious present from one of it’s most successful jazz artists!
As the set neared its conclusion, the great Kenny Burrell took a break from the bandstand. He introduced Ricky Woodard. Woodard played “Easy Living” as if there was no tomorrow. Dedicated to “Boots, Jimmy, Barbara and All The Folks,” Woodard showed his excellent command of his sax in a style reminiscent of Charlie “Bird” Parker but filled it with a sound that is sure to secure his place as a sax phenom on the West Coast jazz scene.
After an appreciative round of applause for Woodard's spotlight, the great Kenny Burrell returned to pay his respects to Duke Ellington, the genius and jazz icon who has called Burrell “his favorite guitarist.” As the audience counted down the Ellington classic, with heads nodding and feet tapping, Burrell knew he had reached through and formed a new connection with his audience. He ended the set at 10:10 p.m., nearly two hours from the moment the Quintet started swinging!
With set favorites “Little Sunflower,” “Tenderly,” Duke Ellington classics and “Tones For Joan’s Bones,” it’s not hard to see or hear why Kenny Burrell is everything and more than you've heard before. His “live” show features the best jazz guitar ever and is jazz, the way it is meant to be heard. That Night At Catalina’s was great!
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.