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Bringing jazz, fun to UCLA


Thursday, November 7, 1996


Kenny Burrell is named director of new Jazz Studies ProgramBy
Michael Prevatt

Daily Bruin Contributor

With his appointment as Director of the UCLA Jazz Studies
Program and the release of his 90th album, "The Jazz Heritage All
Stars: Live at the Blue Note" (Concord Records), Kenny Burrell has
plenty of reason to celebrate this year.

Voted the No. 1 jazz guitarist in the world by the Jazz Times
International Readers Poll, Kenny Burrell is world-renowned in the
jazz community. As a recording artist, composer and guitarist, he
has become one of the most respected figures in jazz today. This
fall he heads the new Jazz Studies Program, a specialization for
ethnomusicology and music majors.

The new program offers "a well- rounded education, as any other
student at UCLA will have," Burrell says. "I feel it begins to fill
a vacuum which has not been here in terms of this important art
form known as jazz."

The program includes combo classes, lectures, private lessons,
big band ensembles and jazz theory.

His appointment has excited the faculty of the ethnomusicology
and music departments, including Gerald Wilson, lecturer, director
of Jazz Ensemble #1 (the No. 1 big jazz band at UCLA) and
three-time Grammy nominee.

"(Burrell is) a jazz master and a pioneer of modern jazz guitar.
He has the desire to help young musicians. It is utmost in his
mind, and that makes him special. He is rich with music, and it is
a great honor to get to know him here at UCLA," Wilson says.

Burrell sees big things in store for the program, most
importantly for its students.

"Taking the classes, the students will be well on their way to
becoming successfully equipped in competing in the jazz world …
Students can go on to grad school or become jazz performers,
writers or producers."

But one of the most important goals involves creating a sense of
joy in the classroom, something not always present at the
university, Burrell says.

"It’s taken a long time to get this music into college as a
serious study … and yet at some other schools, they’re learning
all theory. That sense of pleasure is not there. Some professors
are too serious. I think (UCLA) has asked us to be a part of the
program because not only do we know the theory and the techniques,
but we have experience with that sense of joy and pleasure,"
Burrell says.

"I want the students to discover their music. The biggest joy
comes when the students start to play their own stuff. When the
band’s cookin’ and its your thing, there’s nothing like it! The
ultimate goal in jazz is to do your own thing."

This philosophy is one Kenny also applies to his own career in
jazz. "It’s still fun," Burrell says, "but once that joy stops, I’m
gonna stop.

"I really feel that (music) changes one’s life. That experience,
having that kind of self-expression, to express yourself musically
and bring out the ideas that come to you spontaneously … when
that starts happening, there’s nothing like it in the world,"
Burrell says.

Burrell began playing guitar in Detroit during his early teens
and was influenced by such greats as Charlie Christian, the first
guitarist to utilize the electric guitar, and Oscar Moore, the
innovator of modern chords. Other influences included T-Bone Walker
and Muddy Waters.

Since then, he has remained a recording artist, having recorded
90 albums.

"This is a banner year for me in the sense that it represents
not only my 90th album, but also the 40th anniversary of my first
album," Burrell says.

He contends it’s not easy, but "it’s a labor of love. I feel
lucky to have had the support of the record companies and the fans
as well."

Burrell seeks to expand the jazz audience, but explains that
this is difficult because he believes jazz takes a more seasoned,
intellectual ear.

"Jazz is both pop and classical. Pop music equates to
entertainment and sales, though. Record companies feel it’s
difficult to promote something as sophisticated and highly
developed as jazz. They would rather put their dollars toward a
more simplified kind of music. Jazz is a classical music, too,"
Burrell says.

"If we look at the definition of ‘classical,’ then it is indeed
classical music. But even a more serious problem is that jazz gets
very little support from the classical side of the music business.
That’s a big mistake. There’s something wrong with that," he

He hopes the jazz program will serve as a mechanism to develop
the audience, both students of the program and the rest of the
student body. This will include quarterly shows and noontime
concerts. The first show is this Friday evening at Schoenberg Hall,
with Jazz Ensembles #1 and #2, and it features Burrell as the guest

"I want people to get excited about this," says Burrell.

The program will also offer workshops and seminars, conducted by
visiting guest artists such as Herbie Hancock, who will come to
UCLA as a Regents scholar in early 1997. A built-in faculty will
teach regular theory, incorporate a history of music, and offer
courses on all cultures. Teaching fellowships will be offered to
outstanding musicians who want to work on special projects here
while teaching classes, which Kenny calls "extending the university
to the community" ­ another goal of the program.

Burrell seems very ambitious in his objectives for the jazz
program, but in the end, it all comes back to creating joyous
experiences, and if that is accomplished, then Burrell’s goals will
be reached.

"In the words of Kenny himself," Wilson says, "it’s a joy to be
a part of jazz, a joy to play jazz, a joy to participate." With
over forty years of joy under his belt, Burrell seems like the best
man for the job.

Music: Kenny Burrell is a guest soloist with the UCLA Jazz
Ensemble, who performs in Schoenberg Hall on Friday at 8 p.m.
Admission is free. For more info, call (310) 825- 2278.

School of Arts and Architecture

Kenny Burrell, jazz great and director of Jazz Studies plays at
Schoenberg Friday.

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