Kenny Burrell, Rudy Van Gelder Studio, January 8, 1963
Photo by Francis Wolff
Last night, master guitarist Kenny Burrell treated me and the remainder of the packed house in attendance at Yoshi's, Oakland, to an encore performance of his classic blues line "Chitlins Con Carne." It was an inventive, heartfelt, blues-laden performance that is still ringing in my soul this morning. And although it may well be his most well-known composition (thanks, not in the least, to Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1991 cover version), this was the first time I had seen Kenny perform in the in the half-a-dozen or so times that I have seen him play live.
The tune was originally recorded on January 8, 1963 in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey at Rudy Van Gelder's mecca of modern recording studio. The single session yielded no less than 9 titles, 1 LP (Midnight Blue), and 2 singles. Fairly productive by anyone's standards. Drummer, Bill English, and bassist, Major Holley, were members of Kenny's regular combo at the time. Conguero, Ray Barretto, recorded regularly with Burrell around this time - but to the best of my knowledge, did not perform with him in night clubs. Tenor sax man, Stanley Turrentine, was of course a very active member of the Blue Note stable at the time of the recording and had recorded alongside Burrell several times in the years surrounding the session (my long time Jimmy Smith favorite Back At The Chicken Shack being just one notable example).
Like most of the titles recorded that day/night, "Chitlins Con Carne" was penned by Burrell and is an exercise in how to really play the blues. It's funky rhythm doesn't quite adhere to any particular Latin pattern, but between the clave-feel and the congas, it is achieves a really unique effect. Both Burrell and Turrentine are at their smoky, late-night best. Kenny's tone is unmistakeable even though this was well into the period when he was experimenting with a wide array of guitars (backing up the statement that it is truly all in the fingers). On this particular session he was playing what appears to be a Gibson L-5 and very likely played through a Fender Deluxe that Van Gelder reportedly kept on hand at the studio.