UCLA celebrates jazz guitarist Burrell


Helped by four big bands, eight guitarists, four saxophonists, five pianists and four vocalists, the University of California at Los Angeles threw a four-hour birthday tribute Saturday for one of its professors, jazz guitar great Kenny Burrell.

Burrell, a master of bebop guitar who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Benny Goodman, turned 75 last month and the party was an acknowledgment both of his music and his pioneering teaching of jazz studies at UCLA.

Among those taking part in either duets or ensembles with Burrell were guitarists Pat Metheny, Russell Malone and Anthony Wilson. Hubert Laws played flutes while Jeff Clayton, Charles Owens and Herman Riley played saxophone. Argentine master Lalo Schifrin was one of the featured played pianists and blues singer Linda Hopkins brought the house down with a rendition of "What a Wonderful World."

Burrell, a ramrod-thin, white-haired man, took a look at his watch as midnight approached and apologized to the audience at UCLA's Royce Hall for the tribute being so long. But he added, "Time flies when you are having fun."

The guitarist has been an influential player ever since making his first album in 1951. Jimi Hendrix once said that Burrell has the sound he wanted and Duke Ellington called him the best guitarist he knew.