Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell, 1977.jpg
Burrell in Buffalo, New York, 1977
Background information
Birth nameKenneth Earl Burrell
Born (1931-07-31) July 31, 1931 (age 88)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresJazz, blues, soul jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, educator
Years active1951–present
LabelsBlue Note, Prestige, Verve, Fantasy, Fortune, Concord Jazz, Highnote
Associated actsJimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine

Kenneth Earl Burrell (born July 31, 1931) is an American jazz guitarist known for his work on the Blue Note label. His collaborations with Jimmy Smith produced the 1965 Billboard Top Twenty hit album Organ Grinder Swing.[1] He has cited jazz guitarists Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt as influences, along with blues guitarists T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters.[2][3][4] Furthermore, Jimi Hendrix has cited Burrell as an influence.[5]

Burrell is a professor and Director of Jazz Studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.[6]

Early life

Burrell was born in Detroit, Michigan. Both his parents played instruments,[7] and he began playing guitar at the age of 12 after listening Charlie Christian's recordings. During World War II, due to metal shortage, he abandoned the idea of becoming a saxophonist, and bought an acoustic guitar for $10. He was inspired to play jazz after listening to Oscar Moore, but it was Django Reinhardt who showed him "that you could get your own individuality on an instrument."[8] He went on to study composition and theory with Louis Cabara and classical guitar with Joe Fava. While a student at Wayne State University, he made his recording debut as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's sextet in 1951,[9] followed by the "Rose of Tangier"/"Ground Round" single recorded under his own name at Fortune Records in Detroit. While in college, Burrell founded the New World Music Society collective with fellow Detroit musicians Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Elvin Jones, and Yusef Lateef.[2][3][4][6]


Burrell toured with Oscar Peterson after graduating in 1955[7] and then moved to New York City in 1956 with pianist Tommy Flanagan. Within months, Burrell had recorded his first album as leader for Blue Note and both he and Flanagan were sought-after as sidemen and studio musicians, performing with singers Tony Bennett and Lena Horne and recording with Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, Gene Ammons, and Kenny Dorham, among others. From 1957 to 1959, Burrell occupied the former chair of Charlie Christian in Benny Goodman's band. Since his New York debut Burrell has had a prolific recording career, and critics have cited The Cats with John Coltrane in 1957, Midnight Blue with Stanley Turrentine in 1963, and Guitar Forms with arranger Gil Evans in 1965 as particular highlights.[2][3][4]

In 1978, he began teaching a course at UCLA called "Ellingtonia," examining the life and accomplishments of Duke Ellington. Although the two never collaborated directly, Ellington called Burrell his "favorite guitar player,"[10] and Burrell has recorded a number of tributes to and interpretations of Ellington's works. Since 1996, Burrell has served as Director of Jazz Studies at UCLA, mentoring such notable alumni as Gretchen Parlato and Kamasi Washington.[4][6][11][10]

Awards and honors

Burrell wrote, arranged, and performed on the 1998 Grammy Award-winning album Dear Ella by Dee Dee Bridgewater, received the 2004 Jazz Educator of the Year Award from Down Beat, and was named a 2005 NEA Jazz Master.[4]

Burrell was a GRAMMY Salute To Jazz Honoree in 2010. The Grammy website states, between "...1956 and 2006, Mr. Burrell has excelled as a leader, co-leader and sideman releasing recordings with stellar musicians in the world of jazz." [12]


In 2019, concerns arose about Burrell's well-being and living circumstances as he became increasingly socially and physically isolated in his home and major frictions developed between his wife, Katherine Goodrich, 37 years his junior, and others living in their Westwood, California, apartment building. A GoFundMe account was set up to pay medical bills and other putative expenses, which became controversial because he was covered by medical insurance through employment at UCLA and through Medicare.[13] Subsequently, a letter from Burrell was published, providing a detailed explanation of the situation and justification for the GoFundMe campaign.[14]


As leader

LP/CD compilations

  • The Best of Kenny Burrell [LP] (Prestige, 1966)
  • Cool Cookin' [2-LP] (Cadet, 1972)
  • Recapitulation (Chess Jazz Masters Series) [2-LP] (Chess, 1976)
  • The Best of Kenny Burrell (Blue Note, 1995)
  • Verve Jazz Masters (Volume 45): Kenny Burrell (Verve, 1995)
  • Kenny Burrell and the Jazz Giants (Fantasy, 1998) [Prestige/Fantasy/Contemporary/Milestone material]
  • Laid Back (32 Jazz, 1998) [Muse material]
  • 12–15–78 (32 Jazz, 1999) (compiles Live at the Village Vanguard, and Kenny Burrell in New York)
  • Introducing Kenny Burrell: The First Blue Note Sessions (Blue Note, 2000) (compiles Introducing Kenny Burrell, Kenny Burrell, and K. B. Blues)
  • The Best of Kenny Burrell (Prestige, 2004) (also released as Prestige Profiles: Kenny Burrell)
  • Kenny Burrell: Ballad Essentials (Concord, 2005) [Prestige/Fantasy/Concord material]
  • Kenny Burrell...The Artist Selects (Blue Note, 2005)


As sideman

With Nat Adderley

With Mose Allison

  • Ever Since the World Ended (Blue Note, 1987)

With Gene Ammons

With Ernestine Anderson

With Louis Armstrong

With Sil Austin and Red Prysock

  • Battle Royale (Mercury, 1959)

With Chet Baker

With Ray Barretto

  • Portraits in Jazz and Clave (RCA, 2000)

With Bill Barron

With Tony Bennett

With Andy Bey

  • Now! Hear! (Prestige, 1964)
  • 'Round Midnight (Prestige, 1965)

With Dee Dee Bridgewater

With Ronnell Bright

  • Bright's Spot (Savoy, 1956)

With James Brown & The Famous Flames

With Ray Brown

  • Some of My Best Friends Are...Guitarists (Telarc, 2002)

With Ray Bryant

  • No Problem (EmArcy, 1994)

With Donald Byrd

With Betty Carter

With Paul Chambers

With Ray Charles

With Sonny Clark

With Chris Connor

  • Chris Connor Sings Ballads of the Sad Café (Atlantic, 1959)
  • In Person (Atlantic, 1959)

With Blossom Dearie

With Kenny Dorham

With Bill Evans

With Gil Evans

With Art Farmer

  • Ph.D. (Contemporary, 1989)

With Tommy Flanagan

With Frank Foster

With Aretha Franklin

With Red Garland

With Stan Getz

With Terry Gibbs

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Paul Gonsalves

With Babs Gonzales

  • Tales of Manhattan: The Cool Philosophy of Babs Gonzales (Jaro, 1959)

With Roland Hanna

With Nancy Harrow

  • Wild Women Don't Have the Blues (Candid, 1961)

With Coleman Hawkins

With Eddie Harris

With Gene Harris

  • World Tour 1990 (Concord, 1990)

With Johnny Hartman

With Jimmy Heath

With Johnny Hodges

With Jay Hoggard

  • The Fountain (Muse, 1991)

With Billie Holiday

With Shirley Horn

With Lena Horne

With Milt Jackson

With Willis Jackson

With Illinois Jacquet

With John Jenkins

With Budd Johnson

With J. J. Johnson

With Etta Jones

With Hank Jones

With Quincy Jones

With Thad Jones

With Taft Jordan

  • Mood Indigo (Moodsville, 1961)

With Wynton Kelly

With Joe Kennedy Jr.

  • Strings by Candlelight (Capitol, 1962)

With B.B. King

With Yusef Lateef

With Hubert Laws

With The Leiber–Stoller Big Band

  • Yakety Yak (Atlantic, 1960)

With Melba Liston

With Gloria Lynne

With Gildo Mahones

With Jack McDuff

With Gary McFarland

With Jimmy McGriff

With Billy Mitchell

With Wes Montgomery

With Frank Morgan

With Maria Muldaur

With Dave Pike

With Billie Poole

  • Confessin' the Blues! (Riverside, 1963)

With The Prestige All Stars

With Ike Quebec

With Jerome Richardson

With Freddie Roach

With Sonny Rollins

With Charlie Rouse

With Vanessa Rubin

  • I'm Glad There Is You: A Tribute to Carmen McRae (Novus, 1994)

With Jimmy Rushing

With A. K. Salim

With Lalo Schifrin

With Carol Sloane

  • Love You Madly (Contemporary, 1988)

With Jimmy Smith

With Dakota Staton

  • Time to Swing (Capitol, 1959)

With Sylvia Syms

  • Sylvia Is! (Prestige, 1965)
  • Then Along Came Bill: A Tribute to Bill Evans (DRG, 1989)

With Ed Thigpen

With Clark Terry Quintet

With Cal Tjader

With Stanley Turrentine

With Dinah Washington

With Doug Watkins

  • Watkins at Large (Transition, 1956)

With Dicky Wells

With Frank Wess

With Randy Weston

With Joe Williams

  • Jump for Joy (RCA Victor, 1963)
  • Me and the Blues (RCA Victor, 1964)

With Kai Winding

With Jimmy Witherspoon

With Leo Wright


  1. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (20 November 1965). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. pp. 143–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  2. ^ a b c Collar, Matt. "Kenny Burrell". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Cohassey, John. "Kenny Burrell: Guitarist, Educator." Contemporary Musicians. Profiles of the People in Music. Ed. Julia M. Rubiner. Vol. 11. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1994. 29-31. Print
  4. ^ a b c d e Nash, Sunny. "Kenny Burrell Biography." PRLog, May 13, 2009.
  5. ^ Moffet, Doug [@DougMoffettJazz] (2019-09-18). "On this day when we mourn the loss of #JimiHendrix, it is worth noting that Jimi Hendrix once remarked, "Kenny Burrell, that's the sound I'm looking for."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ a b c O'Connell, Sean J. (January 24, 2014). "A Jazz Elder Becomes A UCLA Professor". NPR. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Sallis, James. "Middle Ground: Herb Ellis, Howard Roberts, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow." Jazz Guitars: An Anthology. First ed. New York: Quill, 1984. 197-207. Print.
  8. ^ Timberg, Scott (November 6, 2011). "Kenny Burrell's 80th means a party for listeners". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  9. ^ "Professor and legendary jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell: 80 years young". UCLA School of Music. November 9, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Kenny Burrell, 1999 - Los Angeles Jazz Society". Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  11. ^ Teddy Rosenbluth (August 26, 2018). "Ethnomusicology department adds an interdisciplinary global jazz studies major". Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  12. ^ "Kenny Burrell — 2010 GRAMMY Salute To Jazz Honoree". December 2, 2014. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  13. ^ Geoff Edgers (July 11, 2019). "A jazz legend said he was in desperate need of money. His friends had questions". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  14. ^ JazzTimes Exclusive: A New Statement from Kenny Burrell, , Kenny Burrell, July 3, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  15. ^ "Kenny Burrell | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  16. ^ Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.

External links