UPDATE 7/11/19: A second statement sent to JazzTimes by Kenny Burrell and a subsequent report in The Washington Post have added many more layers of complication to this story, which we will continue to follow.
UPDATE 5/15/19: A statement from Kenny Burrell has been posted on the GoFundMe page, which has now raised more than $150,000. Go here to learn more.
UPDATE 5/13/19: Within two days of the “Support Kenny Burrell” GoFundMe page’s launch, its initial goal was surpassed; more than $130,000 has now been raised. Meanwhile, the University of California, Los Angeles, from which Kenny Burrell has been on leave for the past two years, has issued a statement: “UCLA was unaware of Katherine Burrell’s crowdfunding activity on behalf of herself and husband, Kenny. UCLA is concerned and is looking into the circumstances of this matter. Kenny Burrell is a Distinguished Professor of Music and Global Jazz Studies at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. Professor Burrell is currently on sabbatical, and is scheduled to return to UCLA for the Spring Quarter in March 2020. He remains a full-time faculty member with related compensation and health benefits.”
Yesterday (May 9), in a development that has caused consternation within the jazz community, Katherine Burrell, the wife of guitarist Kenny Burrell, set up a page on the fundraising website GoFundMe with the simple headline “Support Kenny Burrell.” The paragraph below that headline told a woeful tale, beginning with an accident that Burrell suffered following a 2016 concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall to celebrate his 85th birthday, which necessitated two years’ recovery. From there, the misfortunes built rapidly: mounting medical expenses, identity theft, bank fraud, ravaged credit scores, a homeowners-association legal battle. The end result of it all? The Burrells were broke, and could be homeless within weeks. In desperation, Mrs. Burrell was turning to the Internet, trying to raise $100,000 to keep her husband safe, secure, and well cared for.
The magnitude of the Burrells’ problem seemed so improbably great, so ugly and absurd, that many people who first learned about their GoFundMe page via social media were inclined to doubt the story’s veracity. But JazzTimes can now confirm, sadly, that every bit of it is true.
This afternoon, the Jazz Foundation of America—which has been in contact with Katherine Burrell about the family’s situation for months—released an official statement that notes, in part:
“Kenny and Katherine had been dealing with this situation alone for several years, because, as always, musicians are proud and self-reliant and do things on their own. They did not even contact us to ask for help but were referred by friends.
“The Jazz Foundation assessed the case, conferred with other helping organizations, and reviewed documents attesting to the financial need described in the GoFundMe post.
“We couldn’t possibly cover the full scope of the need, and other sources of funding were explored, including a GoFundMe campaign, given how successful and lifesaving they have proven for fellow musicians.
“As we can see in this outpouring of love for Kenny and Katherine, it has worked.”
Indeed, the page has, as of this writing, raised nearly $60,000 of its $100,000 goal—a strong demonstration of the jazz community’s support for its own members in the face of hardships that can seem unbelievable but unfortunately are real.
If you would like to contribute to the Burrells’ page, go here.
The full statement from the Jazz Foundation is reproduced at the link below.