Saturday, March 24

Centennial celebration

Kenny Burrell, jazz icon and UCLA director of jazz studies, to record 100th album in live performance


KENNY BURRELL’S 75TH Saturday, 8 p.m. Royce
Hall, $15

Those who think that jazz music died out alongside Ellington,
Coltrane, Davis and Gillespie ought to take another look closer to

No, not at the dusty vinyl that sits in crates in your mom and
dad’s basement, but at the heart of the UCLA music
department, where living musical legends continue to enliven the
well-renowned jazz faculty.

In order to celebrate the life and career of jazz icon Kenny
Burrell, director of the UCLA jazz studies program, on Saturday,
Dec. 2, UCLA Live presents an exclusive tribute concert to
Burrell’s 75th birthday, his 50th year of recording and his
28th year as a professor at UCLA.

The concert, which features performances by the Kenny Burrell
Trio, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, the Jazz Heritage All-Stars and
a long list of guest performers including Pat Metheny, Russell
Malone, Barbara Morrison, Hubert Laws and Jeff Clayton intends to
celebrate Burrell’s continuing legacy.

Burrell is not only the founder of jazz education at UCLA but
also an innovative composer, band leader and one of the
world’s most-recorded and most-respected jazz guitarists.

Burrell, whose extensive discography already includes 99 albums
under his own name including the critically acclaimed “Guitar
Forms,” “Ellington is Forever” and “Burrell
and Coltrane,” plans to record the live concert on Saturday
as his 100th album.

It will cap off the over 300 other recordings he has played on
as a sideman with nearly every influential artist in jazz history
including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie
Parker, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles and Louis

“When you have a man of Kenny’s musical and personal
integrity, who has recorded music for the past 50 years, whose next
album … will be his 100th, and who has accomplished as much as he
has not only as a performer but as an educator and a prime mover in
jazz ““ if you have any feeling in your soul at all, you will
want this to be just a grand celebration,” said former Los
Angeles Lakers star Tommy Hawkins, who will serve as the master of
ceremonies at the concert.

The evening should be a grand celebration indeed, with Burrell
performing a mix of new original music, past recordings and
personal favorites including a few pieces by Duke Ellington.

He will be joined by an array of burgeoning artists, such as the
UCLA Jazz Orchestra as well as all-star performers including
featured guitarists Russell Malone and Pat Metheny, both of whom
who have been strongly influenced by Burrell’s style of bebop

“I feel honored that I’ve had an influence on people
who are so great and not only popular in jazz music, but popular,
period,” Burrell said.

“It’s really important to get appreciation from
people in your own field, your peers ““ that’s great.
And then I’m going to be (on stage) with Gerald Wilson and
his big band, and he’s influenced me a lot. We influence each
other all the time,” he added with a laugh.

Although Burrell’s largest influence is in the realm of
jazz guitar, his lifetime achievements extend well beyond
performance and recording.

As a professor in the ethnomusicology department of UCLA for 28
years and as the founder of the Jazz Heritage Foundation and the
Friends of Jazz at UCLA, Burrell continues to inspire a new
generation of jazz artists while also demanding that the history of
jazz never be forgotten.

“He has, most obviously, influenced a whole generation of
guitarists that have followed him, including myself and some of the
guitarists that are performing,” said Charley Harrison,
conductor of the UCLA Jazz Orchestra, which will be performing with
Burrell at Saturday’s festivities. The orchestra will join
several of the higher-profile performers.

“I know surely he’s influenced Professor Malone and
Anthony Wilson as well,” Harrison said.

But some of Burrell’s greatest contributions have been as
a teacher.

“He taught a class called “˜Ellingtonia’ that
focused on the life and contributions of Duke Ellington,”
said Harrison.

The class, which Burrell started at UCLA in 1978, is still
taught by him today.

“Kenny, in my experience, has helped to keep the
contributions that Ellington made from being so easily
forgotten,” Harrison added.

Although Burrell believes jazz is about implementing both past
and present influences, he emphasizes that jazz music continues to
exist because it is constantly presenting something new.

This will certainly be showcased Saturday night.

“It can always be fresh and it should always be fresh.
(It) turns the audience on because you don’t know what
you’re going to get. The musicians don’t know
either!” said the 75-year-old guitarist. “That keeps
the musicians young.”

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