Recorded live at Catalina's in Hollywood, Special Requests (And Other Favorites) on HighNote Records is the latest album by NEA JazzMaster Kenny Burrell. Its an auspicious career that started in 1951 with Dizzy Gillespie and has resulted in 108 records and CDs as stated by Bubba Jackson in the liner notes. On this release, he certainly shows no signs of slowing down in the least. It combines favorites and some audience requests (hence the title) and on this, Burrell is supported by a group that includes Justo Almario on tenor saxophone and flute; Tom Rainier on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums. It is a wonderful group that swings effortlessly. Almario specifically will certainly grab one's attention with his very robust saxophone and lyrical flute, and Rainier has a clean and fluid style.
Burrell throughout is terrific. His clean, deft and precise playing is laced with melodic invention and wonderful tone that matches well with his band from his opening notes on Benny Golson's Killer Joe (and Almario's tenor makes its first impression here" to his fresh reworking of his classic Chitlins Con Carne. There are his interpretations of Duke Ellington from the familiar In a Sentimental Mood, to the lesser known Sunset and the Mockingbird (from The Queen's Suite) along with an amiable vocal from Burrell on The Feeling of Jazz. There is the lovely rendition of Freddie Hubbard's Little Sunflower, with lovely flute from Almario, and Burrell plays his acoustic guitar on The Summer Knows.
Other songs are standards like Make Someone Happy and Bye Bye Blackbird, as well as J.J. Johnson's Lament. Listening to Burrell's spoken comments at the end of this CD, where he talks about the late show, one might hope more from this night at Catalina’s by may be forthcoming.