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Dwayne Burno: Tradition

George Colligan By

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[ Editor's Note: The following interview is reprinted from George Colligan's blog, Jazztruth]

Dwayne Burno is one of the great bass players of his generation. Originally from Philadelphia, Burno has been on the New York and international jazz scene since 1990. He has played with so many of the great legends of jazz: Betty Carter, Benny Golson, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Chambers, and so many more. Burno is truly a musician's musician in that the integrity of the music comes first and last. Burno seems to possess perfect pitch and photographic memory, so if he hears something, he can pretty much play it. It's hard to stump him when it comes to music: he has done a tremendous amount of homework, as well as having a ton of high-level experiences with countless bands. His harmonic and melodic sensibilities transcend the bass. He plays walking lines and solo lines with the fluidity of a saxophonist. I was lucky to have Burno play on my first two recordings for Steeplechase Records (Activism and The Newcomer respectively).

Burno is passionate about music, opinionated, articulate, and extremely insightful. I got him to do this interview recently and as you will see, he had a lot to say.

George Colligan: What are your earliest musical memories?

Dwayne Burno: My earliest musical memories revolve around my mother and older siblings and phonograph records. My mother, the late Juanita Burno (1935-2001), was an accomplished pianist and choral director from her teens until her life's end. I was likely paying heavy attention to music in uterus. Once I arrived, my mother played services every Sunday with me, seated or laid across her lap while she played. I literally saw the keyboard and the hand-eye coordinated formation of sounds right before my very eyes. My older siblings all played a musical instrument. They all played and continue to play, well. My oldest brother (Jeffrey Bundy, b. 1953-) plays trumpet and can be found playing in local Philadelphia clubs or traveling the globe with such acts as Billy Paul. My brother Tim (the late Rev. Timothy L. Burno, Jr. 1959-1993) played the clarinet and was a heck of a singer, especially when he'd get excited in the middle of preaching a sermon. My brother (Dr. Derrick K. Burno, b.1964-) plays flute. All three of them played at such a high musical level that I carried that inspiration and aspiration into my own life in music. My mother set aside every Saturday morning as her practice time at the piano. This showed me a lot. Obviously, my mother's main job was parenting and running a household which entailed cooking, meal planning and shopping for a family of seven—which expanded to nine for a time after an aunt suddenly passed, and two of my cousins stayed with our family until custody was awarded to another aunt with less responsibility—washing, drying and ironing of family clothing and household fabrics, sewing, and haberdashery. This full time devotion meant little to no time for the necessary maintenance a musician must have to keep in good musical form. I would listen intently as my mother ran her major and minor scales in octaves and diminished exercises and arpeggios in all keys. Then she may play some Beethoven, Brahms, or Chopin. Then she would do her vocal exercises. She might then sing the recent popular tunes and Broadway tunes of the day since she performed weddings and funerals along with her regular schedule of church services. If my mother heard a tune on the radio that she liked, she would immediately go downtown to the music store on Chestnut St. between 17th and 18th Streets and purchase the sheet music, and set about learning it. My mother was in love with music and I, in turn developed the same if not more obsessive affinity for it. The phonograph or "hi-fi" factors in to my love of music in a strange way. It was popular to have a hi-fi stereo system in your house. It was sort of a middle class black status symbol, which signaled class and sophistication. We had one but I noticed that it was rarely played. I was always told and warned not to touch it. I, of course, defied that edict consistently. The hi-fi was also like the plastic covered sofa that was there to look good to company but not for family seating unless in a photograph. I was always a tall child. So by the time I was walking, I was tall enough and strong enough to open the cabinet doors of the hi-fi. That was like opening Pandora's Box. For whatever strange reason, the vinyl albums I was drawn to were jazz records. My mother had albums by Nancy Wilson, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Chico Hamilton, Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, and Duke Ellington's Big Band.


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