Welcome to 1961 and 2003, Music Monday followers! This week we’re listening to Lenny Breau The Hallmark Sessions.
I’m issuing the obligatory warning when selecting a jazz album. If you’re the type that simply cannot appreciate the genre no matter what, we’ll see you back here next week. I should clarify that this album is more gypsy jazz (mixed with country finger-picking) than traditional. It contains guitar, bass, and drums. That’s it, no horns.
The Hallmark Sessions
Let’s revisit my opening statement. Why 1961? If you read the blurb in the image above, you’ll note Lenny recorded this album in 1961 at the ripe old age of 20. You may not consider that a major accomplishment given how many child prodigies there are today thanks to overzealous parents. However, there weren’t that many at that time according to my parents and grandparents. Lenny easily glides his chord progressions around the fret board, but his finger-picking is especially clean. Given the technology at the time, there wasn’t much recording wizardry available. You had the musicians, their instruments, a few mics, and as much tape as was necessary to complete the recording. The musical skill really shines through.
Why 2003? Lenny’s former manager kept the original recordings for over 40 years before they were rediscovered and released. I haven’t seen why his manager sat on the tapes for so long, but I did find a quote from him regarding the sessions.
“The Hallmark Sessions” were recorded on November 28, 1961. Lenny, Rick Danko and Levon Helm recorded the seven Jazz numbers in stereo. Lenny then recorded the two Country & Western numbers and the four Flamenco numbers in mono. What was astounding to the recording engineers, and to everyone present, was that Lenny played the entire Jazz session without any rehearsal or interruption. After a short coffee break, Lenny played the Country & Western numbers, changed guitars, and played the four Flamenco numbers – again, without rehearsal or interruption. What has been produced on this CD, is in my estimation, the purest and finest work that Lenny ever performed or recorded.
— George B. Sukornyk, July 31, 2003
Source: The Band
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