Solo and Trio Performances
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Dedicated to the memory of Al Voigt
With Kenny Burrell’s two sets ringing in the final weekend, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s Jazz Masters begin showing what it’s like at the top of the artistic mountain. Burrell, who turned 80 last year, picked up his Jazz Masters knighthood from the NEA in 2005, just another feather in the cap of a musician who’s got a room full of them. See video below, “Stormy Monday” with Stevie Wonder.
But it was an occasion to consider what Kenny Burrell represents in jazz. If, of the other Jazz Masters at Healdsburg, Roy Haynes could be seen as determination and Sheila Jordan as innovation, then Kenny is definitely precision.
Burrell has been hitting the sweet spots on his fretboard since 1951, when as a young guitarist in Detroit he landed a record date with Dizzy Gillespie. After arriving in New York, Kenny instantaneously became a hot ticket among the jazz elite. He had to figure out how to balance making his own records against calls from people like John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, Tony Bennett, Lena Horn and many more.
What’s his secret? He told the Los Angeles Times that music “has to be a balance between heart and mind. The thing is to not let your technique or your analytical side overshadow your feelings.”
On his way to recording over a 100 albums as a leader, and appearing on hundreds more, Kenny has demonstrated two sentiments: an abiding love of Duke Ellington’s music (Ellington called him his favorite guitarist) and a penchant for teaching. He combined the two passions in 1978 when he created a class at UCLA called Ellingtonia, teaching it for 18 years until the university instituted a full-fledged Jazz Studies Department, naming Kenny the director. The guitarist teaches ethnomusicology, jazz studies and leads a few guitar workshops – all while continuing to record albums and perform concerts. He was also involved with Herb Alpert and Herbie Hancock in folding the Thelonious Monk Institute into UCLA’s jazz programs.
Burrell will play two sets at the Raven. The first will be solo guitar, where the audience is likely to hear the remarkable picking and finger-style technique he displayed on his new album of live solo guitar, Tenderly. On this casually paced, evocatively arranged tour de force – surprisingly his first recording of unaccompanied guitar – he balances original tunes with tributes to Billie Holiday, Wes Montgomery, Louis Armstrong and Ellington. At the second set he’ll front a trio.
Expect the polished drive and professional swing that has made Kenny Burrell arguably the most respected guitarist in jazz history.
Al Voigt, an artist, inventor and art patron, passed away in 2011. Co-founder of the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation, Al’s generosity and artistic vision are widely recognized for boosting the quantity and quality of public art in Northern California. Visit thespiritoftheman.com for details about a yearlong sculpture exhibition honoring Al that will open with a reception on May 20th at Paradise Ridge Winery, featuring the Lorca Hart Trio.