Song of the Week – Chitlins Con Carne, Kenny Burrell


86 year old Kenny Burrell is one of the most influential guitarists in jazz history. His crisp clean tone was influenced by Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt but also has one foot in the door of the blues.

Perhaps his most important album was Midnight Blue, recorded for the renowned Blue Note label in 1963. On this album Burrell is backed by Stanley Turrentine (sax), Major Holley (bass), Bill English (drums) and Ray Barretto (conga).

Midnight Blue contains today’s SotW, “Chitlins Con Carne.”

A blog called Jazz Rock Fusion Guitar has a posting that describes the song very well:

… “Chitlins con Carne”… is the low-key original that set the standard for this now standard Latin-tinged blues. The eight-bar intro lays down a pulsing Latin clave, with Holley pedaling the bass as Barretto takes liberties on the congas. Turrentine’s matter-of-fact statement of the melody establishes his by turns lugubrious and diaphanous sound.

Burrell’s sparse comping sets the album’s precedent for succinctness, one of his hallmarks. His deceptively clean guitar solo walks a tightrope between endless space and airtight rhythmic motifs; a devil-may-care attitude in the face of death that comes from having been down and out and having lived to tell about it. Turrentine plays foil, Captain Kirk to Burrell’s Spock, singing the blues right out of the gate, but the two show their psychic connection when seamlessly trading not fours, but ones, until the blistering out chorus.

This song has been covered numerous times by artists as diverse as Horace Silver and Junior Wells. But perhaps the most familiar cover was by Stevie Ray Vaughan. If this song sounds familiar I’ll bet it’s because you’ve heard Vaughan’s version, even if you don’t specifically recall it.

It’s pretty clear that Burrell influenced many blues guitarists that followed him – Hendrix, Santana and of course, Vaughan.

He must have even made some impression on Elvis Costello. Check out the tribute paid with the cover to his album Almost Blue.

Enjoy… until next week.

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