Kenny Burrell, Blue Lights


Blue Lights is an album by American jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell recorded in 1958 and released on the Blue Note label as two 12 inch LP's entitled Volume 1 and Volume 2. The cover features artwork by Andy Warhol. Any has done other Album Art for Blue note Records but that will be an article on its own.  The album was subsequently reissued as separate CDs and a two disc set combining Volume 1 and Volume 2.

My favorite selection comes from Volume 2 and is entitled Autumn in New York. His lyrical rendering of this popular tune places me 3000 miles away on a park bench in either Central Park or Battery Park in New York City. This music was recorded over 50 years ago; however the quality of these pressings whether purchased on vinyl or CD are masterful.


Burrell was born in Detroit, Michigan, to a musical family and began playing guitar at the age of 12. Guitarists who influenced him include Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and Wes Montgomery. While a student at Wayne State University, he made his recording debut as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's sextet in 1951, following which he recorded the Ground Round single at Fortune Records in Detroit. He toured with Oscar Peterson after graduating in 1955 and then moved to New York City in 1956.

A consummate sideman, Burrell has recorded with a wide range of prominent musicians. He has also led his own groups since 1951 and recorded many well-received albums.

In the 1970s he began leading seminars about music, particularly Duke Ellington's. Although the two never collaborated directly, Ellington called Burrell his "favorite guitarist," and Burrell has recorded a number of tributes to and interpretations of Ellington's works.

A highly popular performer, Burrell has won several jazz polls in Japan and the United Kingdom as well as in the United States. He has recorded about 106 albums, including Midnight Blue (1963), Blue Lights, Guitar Forms, Sunup To Sundown (1990), Soft Winds (1993), Then Along Came Kenny (1993), and Lotus Blossom (1995).

In the mid 90’s, Mr. Burrell served as Director of Jazz Studies at UCLA, mentoring such notable alumni as Gretchen Parlato and Kalil Wilson. Burrell tought a course entitled "Ellingtonia", examining the life and accomplishments of Duke Ellington.

He is still performing today at the age of 82 and can sometimes be heard at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood California.

Take a musical interlude and listen to Kenny Burrell Quartet's Autumn in New York here.

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  • H. Keith Renty
    published this page in Jazz Corner 2014-03-14 02:30:19 -0700

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