The Tender Gender is my favorite LP by jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. I’ve owned it awhile and don’t recall the cost, but it must of been around $8-12 for this Japanese pressing of Cadet 772 (This Japanese version was produced by Baybridge Records as UPS-2228-BC in 1983, Cadet released it originally in 1966). I was expecting excellent sound, but the sonics on this LP are just ok. It’s somewhat dull in timbre and compressed, as if the four musicians had their instruments mushed together in the mix. I also owned the domestic version of the album and it’s hard to recall, but the sonics weren’t any better and may have been slightly worse. But no worries, because Burrell’s playing trumps all of that.This is a terrific collection of 10 short tunes, averaging 3 to 5 minutes long. Five were written by Burrell. I think what I like about it is he states the melody, and then gets to it concisely. And what beautifully played melodies they are.
I’ve heard Burrell play People (by composer Jule Styne and lyricist Bob Merrill) live on his Yamaha acoustic guitar, at least twice at Yoshi’s Nightclub in Oakland, CA. The LP version is solo, electrified, and reflects the slightly sad nature of the lyrics. There’s a minor tone to the chords he uses to state “People, people who need people” lyric that opens the tune. It closes on a positive note, literally and figuratively. No wasted notes in this two minute and forty-one second KB cover of the huge hit for Barbara Streisand.
Mother In Law is a good example of how a superior talent can overcome a song’s shortcomings. The tune is same two chords over and over, no chorus, no bridge. But it’s pure Kenny Burrell playing over those two chords and doesn’t get boring, the way many songs built on just two chord melodies can be.
The appropriately titled Hot Bossa is a bit of hot and dirty, like an old nightclub with out air conditioning. It swings hard and takes you along for the ride. Another one of Burrell’s own tunes, Suzy, is similar in that it’s played like Burrell got there fast, but didn’t hurry. Like all of the short songs here, he puts a lot into stating the melody line before soloing. That’s why this LP is so great. If you like melody, you’ll like this.
I’m not sure if it was intentional, but Burrell’s guitar is a just a little distorted here, in a good way. It’s like a little extra gravy on your potatoes, gooey but good. And perhaps oddly, his soloing is very clean throughout. What I mean by that is Burrell can sometimes fly over the frets so fast you can barely hear the notes. The Tender Gender is some of his most listenable and tasty soloing.
My favorite tune is Girl Talk. Yea, the same song that was a hit for vocalist Jack Jones. It’s got that same feeling. You can ‘hear’ the guitar strings singing the lyrics, the way Jack Jones was singing about the women of America. “But that’s a dame, they’re all the same, it’s just a game, they call it Girl Talk, Girl Talk…” This isn’t a blues song, but it’s got a bluesy, 60s, cocktail in your hand feeling to it. It was written by Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup for the film Harlow…the same Bobby Troup who married Julie London, the woman with the ‘come hither’ voice. It’s just that kind of song and Burrell does cool justice to it, by doing nothing fancy in the arrangement or playing.
“But baby stay and gab away but hear me say, that after Girl Talk, talk to me…” Tender, Gender, Girls. Highly recommended.
By the way, if you want to read the translated version of the blue Obi that wraps around the LP cover, go here! And check out my photos below of Kenny playing at San Francisco Bay Area venues.
Got one minute and three seconds? Check out a medley of four tunes from the LP!
Earthy (Prestige 7102 or OJC 1707). With Al Cohn, Art Farmer and others.
Kenny Burrell (Prestige P 7088 or OJC 019).
Have Yourself A Soulful Little Christmas (Cadet 798). My favorite jazz-Christmas LP. The songs aren’t so Christmassy, so you can play this for the cool crowd.
Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (New Jazz NJ 8276, or Prestige PRLP 7532, probably an OJC out there, too). Fabulous collab between Coltrane and Burrell, both men are playing their butts off.
Midnight Blue (Blue Note 84123, a Cadre Rouge Audiophile Edition is also available on Blue Note vinyl, and is probably very hard to find and expensive, too). This might be Burrell’s most popular LP, it’s cool and groovy and sounds like Blue Note. Stanley Turrentine, who seemed to play with Kenny periodically, is also here.
The Cats (OJC 79, also as CDs) With John Coltrane and Tommy Flanagan.