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Interviews

Kenny Burrell: Every Note Swings

By Published: February 6, 2012
AAJ: What new material can Kenny Burrell fans look forward to hearing soon?

KB: I'm not sure but I think the next record is going to be the soundtrack from the television show from a concert presented at Royce Hall at UCLA on November 12, which celebrated my 80th year. It was a pretty nice concert. I can't give you names right now because I'm waiting on some legal clearances, but hopefully that's going to come out sometime this year.

AAJ: In 2004, Down Beat named you "Jazz Educator of the Year." Why is education, in particular music education, so personally important to you?

KB: First of all, we are suffering overall in our society from what I believe is a lack of education about American music. Jazz is a large part of American music and I think it's important to me, not only as a jazz musician but as also as an educator, to help people understand how valuable and how important this music is, and also to make them understand that this music is theirs, that it's a part of them. It's all part of us here. When more people learn to understand and appreciate it, it's going to be a win-win: They will enjoy it more, which will give musicians more chances to play and grow, more opportunity to experiment and compose and arrange and perform, and, as a result, make better music. Education is really the key to making everything better in terms of the music of our country.

AAJ: What are the purpose and activities of the Friends of Jazz at UCLA, which you founded?

KB: The Friends of Jazz at UCLA is dedicated to paying homage to the people who were the important contributors to and developers of jazz, musicians and others. We're dedicated to making sure that we honor those who have passed on and those people who are actually still living who have made contributions to this wonderful art form. But we also raise funds to provide scholarships and financial support for our jazz students. I'd like to encourage other schools to do the same thing; in other words, to form whatever kind of organization they want to form as a support organization to raise scholarship money and other funds to help upcoming jazz students, so that they can develop and become the future. They will be the future—this will help to make their future brighter.

AAJ: What do you do when you're not working—because you always seem to be working?

KB: You're right—I'm a worker. I like to compose, I like to perform, and I practice. Lately, I've been writing more about music as well, because of my work as an educator. So I've been writing more about it. I'm still teaching my special course on Ellington at UCLA, which I've been doing for a number of years, called Ellingtonia. I'll probably keep doing the same thing that I've been doing. Maybe writing a little bit more: Composing more and writing a little bit more about music.

I'm also enjoying solo guitar work now, and I'm getting more and more requests for concerts as a soloist. I'm looking forward to that, and really enjoying it.


Selected Discography

Kenny Burrell, Tenderly (HighNote, 2011)

Kenny Burrell, Be Yourself: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (HighNote, 2010)
Kenny Burrell, 75th Birthday Bash (Blue Note, 2007)
Kenny Burrell, Ellington is Forever Volume 2 (Fantasy, 1977)

Kenny Burrell, Ellington is Forever Volume 1 (Fantasy, 1975)

Kenny Burrell, God Bless the Child (Sony Masterworks, 1971)

Kenny Burrell, Guitar Forms (Verve, 1965)

Donald Byrd, A New Perspective (Blue Note, 1963)

Kenny Burrell, Midnight Blue (Blue Note, 1963)

Kenny Burrell, Bluesy Burrell (OJC, 1962)

Tony Bennett, At Carnegie Hall (Columbia, 1962)

Jimmy Smith, Back at the Chicken Shack (Blue Note, 1960)

Kenny Burrell, Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (Prestige, 1958)

Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues (Verve, 1956)

Photo Credits:

Pages 1, 3: Pamela Springsteen

Page 2: A. Lepley


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