Sunday July 31, 2011 / 9:00pmKenny Burrell
How was your experience?
So lucky to catch the late show, the last set, the last day, in the closing current gig at Yoshi’s Jack London Square. For “Kenny Burrell’s 80th Birthday Celebration,” this final set was THE performance to be at, when Burrell and the Jazz Heritage All-Stars became what amounted to a fully fledged, big 16-piece band swinging bebop and blues, called the Intergrand Orchestra. Longtime master of the jazz guitar, Mr. Burrell celebrated his birth anniversary with top pupils from his UCLA classes where he is on the music faculty, teaching jazz guitar and performance. The ultimate brag book for any great musician and educator is, of course, to be able to show off his protégés, his future ‘all-stars,’ to audiences in the wider world outside. This late show at Yoshi’s was their showcase, displaying awesome (truly and literally) talent and musicianship. Because universities and conservatories across the land have now established jazz in the music curriculum --- and such distinguished musicians as Kenny Burrell contribute profoundly to the future of the genre --- today’s young jazz musicians are thus musically literate, technically, and the evidence was in seeing these young people sight-reading off their charts with sure poise and confidence, electrifying the room with the burning thrill of their improvisation. The band blazing away up-tempo, the really sweet moments in the set were during the slow, mellow solo Burrell took. A distinctive feature of his sound is his harmonic richness and subtlety, and it was most noticeable in the introspective, acoustic number he played alone, to a hushed, single-hearted audience. Thanks to the amping electric guitar provides, Kenny’s harmonics and phrasing --- whose cool, hot jazz began in Detroit and during the Dizzy Gillespie years --- don’t get lost within the horns of his group, nor bulldozed under the massed sonorities of the band, the harmonies clearly and beautifully sustaining and backing the instrumental chords and their changes. The only disappointment was that they didn’t do anything in Burrell’s scintillating and delicious salsa and bossa nova rhythms. What the public doesn’t see is the stress performing musicians acquire and accumulate through years of instrument idiosyncrasies --- and the guitar, with its gentle voice, may thus be especially gentle in everyday wear-and-tear on stamina and body. Easy on the years, looking like a man a good 20 under his 80, with the vibrancy and vitality, quickness and wit to match, Burrell is going strong. We sang Kenny a bluesy, original happy-birthday ditty composed by Bobby Rodriguez, (the fabulous trumpeter is also a UCLA professor of music like Burrell), backed by all the musicians and applauded by all around. May Kenny Burrell continue to prevail long in such perfection! And may the young musicians of the Intergrand Orchestra fly, full and free, when they leave the nest of their schooling. Bravo!