Kenny Burrell

burrel8.jpg Kenny Burrell, Kenneth Earl Burrell (1931), is a fingerstyle jazz guitarist, composer, band leader 1), and educator. He has recorded nearly 100 albums! He is the author of two books, Jazz Guitar and Jazz Guitar Solos.

He is said to have been Duke Ellington's favorite improviser on the guitar. And surely Duke Ellington is Kenny Burrells heroes. After having developed a college course in jazz, named “Ellingtonia”, he became professor in the Departments of Music and Ethnomusicology UCLA. Since 1996 he has been the director of the Jazz Studies Program at UCLA. He is the founder of the Jazz Heritage Foundation and the Friends of Jazz at UCLA2). He has been voted Best Guitarist two times in the Jazz Times International Readers Poll.

In 2005 he received the Jazz Masters Award by the National Endowment for the Arts, in recognition of his major contributions to jazz3). In 2004 he got the Jazz Educator of the Year award from DownBeat magazine for academic achievement and excellence in jazz education. He has also received critical acclaim as a composer. His “Dear Ella,” won a Grammy Award in 1988, performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater. His compositions have been recorded by artists including Ray Brown, Grover Washington, Jr., Frank Wes, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Kenny Burell has worked alongside and recorded with artists like Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Milt Jackson, Billie Holiday, Thad Jones, Kenny Dorham, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Smith, Gene Ammons, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Oscar Peterson, Paul Chambers, Benny Goodman, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Witherspoon, Cedar Walton

Styles: Blues, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop (The “Midnight Blue” record of 1961), mainstream jazz, soul jazz.

Influences by: Charlie Christian, Oscar Moore, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters.

  • Started playing the guitar when he was 12
  • 1951: Debuted on records with Dizzy Gillespie, while still a student at Wayne State University.
  • 1955: Graduated in at Wayne State University in Detroit and received a B.A. in music composition and theory. He also studied classical guitar with Joseph Fava.
  • 1955: Toured with Oscar Peterson.
  • 1956: Moved to New York City. He has been a jazz professional since then.
  • 1970s began leading seminars about music, particularly on Duke Ellington.
  • 1978: Went to UCLA to teach a course on jazz part time, a regular college course on Duke Ellington.
  • 1996: Since 1996 Burell has been full-time professor and the first director of the Jazz Studies Program at UCLA.
  • Created a awareness of jazz support group on the UCLA campus called Friends of Jazz.