KENNY BURRELL & ERNIE ANDREWS
Kenny Burrell came out of the fertile crescent of Detroit jazz in the 1950s and promptly established himself as the guitar voice of the hard-bop movement–the next link in a chain of fret men that descended from protobopper Charlie Christian through bebop players like Tal Farlow and Jimmy Raney. And he soon came to define the idiom’s sound across the board, not just for other guitarists: he made a ton of records that decade, as both sideman and leader, and from the start he displayed an authoritative talent for distilling bebop’s complex patterns into the more straightforward melodies, often tinged with the blues, that distinguished hard bop. Throughout the 50s and 60s he brought his plummy tone and vigorous chordal imagination to a wide range of contexts, from John Coltrane jams to Jimmy Smith’s funk to the introspective Gil Evans arrangements on the classic 1965 album Guitar Forms; his work set the stage for every mainstream guitarist of the day, including Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and the young George Benson. Burrell faded a bit in the 80s, then in the 90s reemerged with a vital, if uncharacteristically contemplative style–he’s even recorded unaccompanied and unamplified, about as far as he could get from the hard-bop ethos that shaped him. But one thing he’s retained over the years is his way with the oeuvre of Duke Ellington, whose 101st birthday he’ll be celebrating in Chicago; the guitarist turned in some of the most nuanced performances of his career on a series of Ellington songbook discs in the 70s. Burrell will share the stage with singer Ernie Andrews, who recaptures the deep-voiced elegance that was a mainstay of the great black swing bands of the 30s. Now 72, Andrews was still a kid back in those days–and though he can’t quite fill the shoes of a paragon like Joe Williams or Jimmy Rushing, I’ve heard him invest Ellington’s music with warmth, musicianship, and sometimes startling power. Sunday, 4 PM, Simpson Theatre, Field Museum of Natural History, Roosevelt and Lake Shore Dr.; 773-734-2000. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.