Guitarist Kenny Burrell Photo courtesy of Regina Davis, Jazz in the Pines publicist

Renowned guitarist Kenny Burrell will perform at the 19th Annual Jazz in the Pines. Burrell will appear in the Holmes Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m, Saturday, Aug. 25, the first day of the festival.


Burrell has been a popular and great jazz guitarist since the 1950s. For 60 years, he has entertained jazz fans across the nation.

Born in Detroit, Burell made his recording debut in 1951 with Dizzy Gillespie and began touring in 1955 with Oscar Peterson. Now Southern California is home. Since 1996, Burrell has been the director of jazz studies in the Department of Ethnomusicology at UCLA.

This is Burrell’s first appearance at the jazz festival. When asked why he is coming this year, he replied, “Bubba [Jackson, artistic consultant for the 2012 Festival] asked me. I said, ‘Yes,’ it’s a nice place up there.”

And Burrell also stressed that the Jazz Fest’s reputation is growing among the nation’s jazz stars.

Burrell will perform solo for the first part of his concert. This is something he has been developing for years. His first fully solo concert was a few years ago at the Pasadena Playhouse. “A friend encouraged me to do it solo so I agreed,” he said.

The result is his latest album, “Tenderly.” While Burrell has done solo recordings for years, this is his first entire album of solos.

Although he’s alone on the stage, Burrell is still the consummate jazz guitarist. “Nothing here has changed, Improvisation is still there.”

Besides his career as a professional musician, Burrell is a fulltime academic, which means he must still work and prepare to make the music happen when he performs. “It’s not a chore, it’s very much enjoyable,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in solo playing, which outweighs the amount of work involved.”

But solo work carries a burden or responsibility he said, “You’re totally responsible for the sounds being made. That is a challenge and blessing.”

This is fundamental to Burrell’s teaching and performing philosophy. He said, “What makes the artist very special or unique is to stand out.” Developing the student’s unique nature is what he tries to do at UCLA and demonstrate on stage when playing.

“We all have something that is special. It may or may not be in keeping with what’s current,” he said. But recognizing and holding onto that uniqueness is what will make a difference in one’s career, he added.

“Sometime it is not easy and takes courage to go against current trends, but you have to listen to your inner voice,” he emphasized. “That’s what helps develop style.”

While Burrell will prepare his audience for what is coming and will explain some of the pieces, he stressed that his education career has little influence on his musical career.

As many jazz greats proclaim about their genre, “overall jazz has not changed, it evolves,” Burrell says. There are different sounds and new developments and in five years something else beside fusion or Latin will be going on, he forecasts.

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