KENNY BURRELL Midnight Blue (Analogue Productions)
Given that Miles’ is arguably the second most studied electrification in popular music after Bob’s, it’s perhaps surprising to discover that jazz was plugged in long before “In A Silent Way”. For instance, guitarist Burrell is wired for sound throughout this 1963 session, which also departs from convention in featuring a conga player in its quintet lineup. It’s also extra famous/notorious for having its cover art pillaged for Elvis Costello’s country covers album “Almost Blue”.
Opener “Chitlins Con Carne” is so apart from the hard bop sound that seemed to be Blue Note’s stock in trade at the time that Jazz Improv magazine’s declaration “If you need to know the Blue Note sound, here it is” frankly baffles me. To me it looks ahead – from a civilising distance, admittedly – to the likes of Santana, Sly & The Family Stone and even Funkadelic. It’s hardly funk, but there’s arguably as much rhythm and blues coursing through it as there is jazz. “Mule”, a titular tribute to bassist Major Holley Jr., is practically pure blues, at least until Stanley Turrentine’s tenor sax solo nudges it back towards jazz territory. “Soul Lament” is a fragment of solo melancholy, and the title track sounds like a slinky rhythmic progenitor of Van Morrison’s “Moondance”. “Wavy Gravy” builds from its opening spy theme creep into a near-seamless hybrid of blues and jazz, but “Saturday Night Blues” is as unreconstructed as its title suggests. It’s still too polite to stomp, but in this company it sounds positively grimy, its drum rolls redolent of a stripper’s soundtrack.
Analogue Productions’ 45 rpm pressing sounds deliciously liquid and relaxed throughout, but the glued sleeve seams had already started to split on my copy, an unfortunate reminder that the packaging is in no way as lavish as that found on Music Matters’ rival Blue Note audiophile reissue series.