Saturday, March 24

Ensemble honors Burrell’s contribution to jazz at UCLA


The ethnomusicology department’s end-of-the-year Jazz
Ensemble concert has a new theme this year ““ instead of
spotlighting students, guest artist Kenny Burrell will join the two
ensembles in celebration of his 25th year at UCLA. For such a major
student event, Burrell’s appearance may raise some questions,
considering that the jazz studies program is only 6 years old.

But Burrell’s presence Wednesday night signals the growing
integration between the music department and African American
studies, the department that hired Burrell a quarter century ago.
In honor of this milestone, Burrell is performing with the Latin
Jazz ensemble and Jazz Ensemble 1, directed by Bobby Rodriguez and
Llew Matthews, respectively. Festivities go down next Wednesday at
8 p.m. in Schoenberg Auditorium.

Employed by then-Director of African American Studies Claudia
Mitchell Kernan and current vice chancellor for Academic Affairs,
Kernan remembers hiring Burrell in an effort to emphasize the
African American musical tradition within the department.

“I’d met Kenny before, and I knew he was very
interested in the history of jazz, broadly from a scholarly
perspective,” Kernan said. “So I thought that this
really might be our lucky day.”

During the ’70s, jazz hadn’t formed a significant
niche within academia, so Burrell’s desire to involve himself
in the scholarly aspect proved invaluable.

“I had been at UCLA doing workshops and concerts prior to
being hired, and I had a reputation as a performer,” Burrell
said. “In my workshops here, I guess certain people realized
that I could not only play, but could also talk about the

Burrell taught Ellingtonia, a course on the music of Duke
Ellington, during winter quarter of the academic school year for 20
years before accepting a faculty position. It was then that he
started to establish UCLA’s first Jazz Studies program which
remains closely intertwined with African-American studies.

The recent establishment of the Burrell Archive within the Ralph
J. Bunche Center for African American Studies is another way for
the department to recognize Burrell’s influence.

“(The archive) will house materials and memorabilia that
Burrell will donate, but it will expand to house (elements of) all
music related to the African American tradition,” Kernan

The department’s move represents an acknowledgement of
Burrell’s influence not only as a teacher and performer but
also as someone who has helped the department as a whole expand and
increase in stature over the last quarter century. Burrell’s
organization of countless school-wide events and programs has been
in line with the genre’s rise to popularity.

“I think one of the reasons why we have a jazz program at
UCLA is because the interest has increased, not only from the
faculty but also from the students,” Burrell said.

But without someone to bring jazz talents to the
university-level environment, the school wouldn’t have
witnessed such rapid growth in the jazz studies program. Kernan
still looks back at her decision to hire Burrell as an enormously
successful move.

“I have tremendous admiration for Burrell, as a premier
artist, resourceful colleague and teacher, but throughout his
tenure at UCLA he has also used his network of connections to
benefit UCLA in many ways,” Kernan said. “And his
general presence on campus has really served to broaden the
experience of our students.”

The UCLA Jazz Ensemble Concert is Wednesday, May 28 in
Schoenberg Hall. Tickets are $7 general admission, $3 students and

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