Kenneth Earl "Kenny" Burrell was born July 31, 1931 in Detroit, Mich., and by age 12 started playing guitar (similar to yours truly who started playing at the age of 14). Little did he know that he would be this year's GRAMMY Salute To Jazz honoree.
I don't know who is more excited, me or Kenny. He has certainly been my favorite jazz guitarist for as long as I remember. Kenny's position as this year's honoree is quite a substantial one, in my opinion. His discography alone proves his ability to, and history of being a superb sideman and solo musician in his own right. Between the years of 1956 and 2006, Mr. Burrell has excelled as a leader, co-leader and sideman releasing recordings with stellar musicians in the world of jazz. His last release, 75th Birthday Bash Live!, released in 2007 on the prestigious Blue Note Records label, not only has a historic playlist of wonderful jazz standards, but showcases prominent musicians such as Joey DeFrancesco, Hubert Laws and Snooky Young, among others. During that same year, he began his tenure as director of jazz studies at UCLA. He has recorded on well-respected jazz labels such as Prestige Records, Verve Music Group, Fantasy Records, and Concord Music Group.
Burrell posesses a unique style, and grace if you will, that defines the essence of jazz guitar. His playing easily brings to life the stellar arrangements of his great predecessors, from Duke Ellington to Billy Strayhorn, and in addition, has a way of conveying the cool that is jazz. If there was to ever be a true definition of "smooth jazz," Mr. Burrell would undoubtedly be a defining factor. His cover of Neal Hefti's classic song "Girl Talk" is one of my favorite tunes.
Mr. Burrell, if you are reading this, keep being the inspiration to jazz musicians and jazz lovers young and old alike. There are many of your tracks that always leave me "just a sittin' and rockin'." I salute you and your accomplishments, and in receiving this auspicious honor.
Congratulations, Kenny Burrell. Jazz lives.