Kenny Burrell's Classic Midnight Blue   At 33 1/3 From Music Matters

On his posthumous album The Sky Is Crying, Stevie Ray Vaughan covers "Chitlins Con Carne", the opening tune on this seminal 1963 jazz/blues release. The annotation includes a quote from brother Jimmie who said that the album was "...a tribute to Stevie's heroes...." among whom was Burrell. Despite his undeserved reputation as a "note-slinger", SRV's version evokes much of the delicacy and nuance found on the original.

The cover art of Elvis Costello's terribly underrated Almost Blue album is probably as much of a tribute to this album as it was an art direction stunt.

Listening to the opener it's easy to imagine it influenced Carlos Santana as well. Its similarity to "Black Magic Woman" might be a coincidence, but probably not. Jimi Hendrix was a fan. Hugh Romney, who was the "Voice of Woodstock" got his nickname from the song "Wavy Gravy" found on this album.

This Burrell album may not be as well-known as some of the other iconic Blue Notes, but it easily rates among the top classics—an enduring album that continues to find new generations of fans.

The opening tune just keeps getting covered but it's hardly the only attraction.

Burrell went piano -less here, organizing the grooves around Ray Barretto's conga, Stanley Turrentine's deeply soulful tenor, Major Holley Jr.'s bass and Bill English's drums.

The two middle tunes on side one "Mule" and "Soul Lament" say all that needs to be said about Burrell's introspective, thoughtful playing and his exquisite touch. You cannot play those two tunes enough times, so soulful and deep are they.

The side ends with the uptempo, classic Blue Note groove sounding title tune and good as it is, it's the two preceding it that manage to stop time every time.

I'll halt the play-by-play because either you know this record or that's sufficient to entice you to get a copy (or you're not at all interested, which would be too bad).

Analogue Productions reissued this as a double 45 "twofer" in a single jacket back in 2008 mastered by Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman. Music Matters way upped the reissue business's packaging standard to include meticulously reproduced cover art re-created from the original negative photographs and gatefold sleeves containing black and white Francis Wolff session photos.

The double 45 sounded really good, though the cover art reproduction left a great deal to be desired: the color was way off and the box was absent around Burrell's photo on the cover.

This reissue was again cut by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes but this time at 33 1/3 at his recently renovated Cohearent Mastering. Gray has upgraded all of his playback electronics, completely rewired his system with Audioquest WEL Signature cable and made other changes to his system, just as you might in yours—if you had around $70,000 to invest.

I was visiting a reviewer for another magazine and we compared this new version, produced by Music Matters to celebrate Blue Note's 75th anniversary, with the previous double 45 and within a few cracks of Barretto's conga, it was obvious that this reissue "smoked" the double 45 in every way, but particularly in terms of transparency and three-dimensionality. The differences were not at all subtle.

With no piano to record, Rudy Van Gelder was able to craft a truly stunning sounding recording, the transparency and detail of which will throw you back in your seat and keep you there—and you needn't get up four times to enjoy it all. This is a Blue Note that need not make any apologies for having been recorded more than 50 years ago.

100% absolutely and highly recommended. Music Matters charges $34.95 for these and when you get your hands on the exquisitely produced jacket and then hear this RTI pressed LP you will know it was money well spent. It's a record you'll return to repeatedly, I'm sure.

Reissue producers Ron Rambach and Joe Harley have taken the art of Blue Note Record reissues to new heights of visual and sonic brilliance.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Mile High Audio's picture

Thanks for any thoughts...:-)

gettingintovinyl's picture

I subscribed to elusivedisc's "Blue Note" club, and these are unbelievable. I'm more of a Rock fan than jazz, but I figured these would be a great starter collection. Now I wish every rerelease was this good.

Michael Fremer's picture
The entire MM Blue Note 33 1/3 series is this good and they've picked all great ones.
Martin's picture

And the AP SACD for good measure.
Do they know how much business you generate for them?

Michael Fremer's picture
They know what they know. I don't know what they know.
AnalogJ's picture

It may not be known whether he knows whether they may know what they don't know what he knows or what may remain the unknown knowns. But who knows?

Steve Edwards's picture

Like Ron Wood stated in the liner notes regarding the Gasoline Alley recording session, "nobody came that wasn't invited and nobody arrived that didn't come."

David_Cormier's picture

By the way Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac wrote Black Magic Woman, not Carlos Santana.

This album is great. The Music Matters 33 1/3 reissues I have so far sound very good. I'm tented to buy all of them.

Michael Fremer's picture
Oh, right. Sorry. Which sounds more like "Chitlins...." though?
planarhead's picture

I would urge anyone to buy these direct from Music Matters. I have never experienced customer service as good as theirs, and I am not restricting this criteria to just hifi/music. Ron Rambach is truly passionate about this stuff.

Box860's picture

In past posts you have given high praise to the Music Matters 45 rpm Blue Note reissues. In fact, if I recall correctly, you've preferred some of them over the Analogue Productions reissues. How do the new MM 33 1/3 reissues compare to the prior 45 rpm Blue Note series from MM?

Michael Fremer's picture
Bot MM and AP 45s were cut by Kevin Gray at his mastering facility. Since the two labels did not issue the same titles at 45 they can't be compared. However, since the 45 series from both AP and MM were issued, Gray's mastering facility underwent major changes so that the MM 33s sound far better than the 45s from either MM or AP....not even close..
doak's picture

Have always liked Kenny Burrell, however I LOVE this album.
I've nothing to compare it to but know this is top quality music and sound. Highly recommended!!

ps: I plan to acquire all twelve in the series. It's an investment in musical pleasure that I expect will bring great dividends.

kenkirk's picture

Hell yes you did. And rightly so! I discovered this album 2 years ago and it immediately jumped to the front of my deserted island picks. A must have for anyone who likes fine jazz with blues all rolled up into one killer recording . I will order up the new reissue, and I will wear it out.

Martin's picture

Shades of spinal tap :-)

With the Beatles box, will there be a 12 and 12 ???
Der's Rekkerds, and den', der's Rekkerds :-)

deaconblue66's picture

And this is where the two track R2R at 15ips comes in handy; when Mother Nature has me orbiting Jupiter flipping a record every 8 - 12 minutes is such a bummer man, and trying to concentrate on a teeny stylus brush - buzz kill!

planarhead's picture

You might be thinking about a different album. This never came out on 15 ips, 2 track.

Unless you mean one of those guys selling SACDs recorded to tape. In which case, enjoy!

deaconblue66's picture

Home Taping is Killing Music

amarok89's picture

How does the 2008 Ron McMaster version stand up to other reissues? That's the one I picked up a couple months back.

VirginVinyl's picture

I really don't need to buy vinyl, is what I keep telling myself when I'm in the store. I was so impress with my first MM Kenny Burrell 33 1/3 that I join the MM club. I think Ron is doing an amazing job with the vinyl production and package.
Outstanding product.

evancent's picture

I am in New York for two weeks and would love to be able to buy some of these music matters pressings
Can anybody tell me if there's a Brick & mortar Store that sells these in or around Manhattan
or can one only get them online,
Also is there any record stores around that stock audiophile CDs or Lps ?
I I'm having trouble finding any.
Thanks heaps

gringostarr's picture

Try Jazz Record Center
Fred specializes in Blue Note.

ronmcdon's picture

On this and other Blue Note LP's there is a weird noise on some songs, like a quick "meep". Does anybody else have this and can they explain what it is? I returned a Nora Jones album because of this same sound. Happens on different TT's as well.

Jim in Houston's picture

Can you comment on the print through/pre-echo on Mule? It is very distracting to me and I don't notice it on any other issue I have. Lori at MM said it is on the master tape. Do you hear it on an original blue note?


howardk's picture

I just finished listening to the MM Midnight Blue album tonight, and easily heard the print through on Mule. It was very obvious, and I don't have a mega-buck system.

Has no one else heard it, or is everyone just accepting it as just another artifact? Mike, if you knew about the print through, you should have mentioned it in your review. If not, how could you have missed it with your mega-buck rig?

Michael Fremer's picture
I was just listening to the music… I plead guilty to ignoring the print through on a 50+ year old tape.
ibanez_ax's picture

This sounds amazing. I can't think of anything else except that the pressing is excellent.

Ysxd5's picture

Regret I had to return my copy of Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue. Had high expectations after reading the review, but was really disappointed with the very obvious and distracting pre-echo, on about half the tracks. Side 2 had poor surface noise on the left channel.

Michael Fremer's picture
But print through on a 50+ year old tape is not. It's more audible here because the mastering chain is so transparent and the pressing so quiet (other than your particular pressing's noise issue).
orangeaudio's picture

Mine from Music Matters has the engraving RR & KME CA.
Maybe KME is not right, because i cannot read it so good. Is this the version mastered from Kevin Gray?

Regards, Thomas

orangeaudio's picture

Ron Rambach = RR
Kevin was in the mastering session with him.

bongo-hifi's picture

I agree that the customer service from Music Matters is excellent. I have subscribed to all the releases to date direct from Music Matters. I have been unlucky with a couple of titles that had pressing issues. No problem, I was sent out replacement copies with no quibbles and they also didn't ask me to return the offending copies, which is great as I am resident in the UK. So buy with absolute confidence.
I have also heard the print through on Mule, but not on other tracks as one other contributor has mentioned. I emailed Music Matters who told me that what you are hearing is the master tape from a very improved lower noise floor.

bongo-hifi's picture

I just want to add a comment regarding what seems to my ears like a slight sonic signature/colouration present on these MM 33 pressings.
I like most listeners have been amazed at the SQ on these records and it really is at times hard to believe that these weren't recorded last week let alone 50 odd years ago!But, whilst it in no way detracts from the musical enjoyment, I am sure I can here the tonal characteristics of those Audioquest cables used to upgrade the mastering suite. I don't have any copies of the 45 rpm versions made prior to the re cabling of the mastering facility to be sure that what I am hearing is down to the cables used, but the sound brings to mind the tonal colourations that I found some years ago when I experimented with a range of Audioquest cables in my system many years ago. It is difficult to describe in words, but it sounds like a rose tinted sort of warm bloom or gloss on the timbre of the instruments.