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JT Notes: Jazz Community Takes Action for Kenny Burrell

The celebrated guitarist's health prompted an outpouring of support

Kenny Burrell and John Jenkins
Kenny Burrell (left) with John Jenkins at the session for the John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell album, Aug. 11, 1957. (photo: Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images LLC)

It was quite a coincidence. Having recently finished reading through Mark Stryker’s piece about Kenny Burrell for this issue—a slightly modified version of the chapter on Burrell in Stryker’s new book, Jazz from Detroit—I felt moved to put on a couple of classics by the guitar great. First Midnight Blue, then A Night at the Vanguard. As Burrell, Richard Davis, and Roy Haynes eased into their sly take on “Just a-Sittin’ and a-Rockin’” from the latter album, I did what one does far too often in 2019 (and by “one” I mean me): I logged onto Facebook. And there at the top of my feed was news about … Kenny Burrell. Who needed my help. What was this? A Zuckerbergian advertising algorithm interacting with my stereo?

No, as it turned out. The 87-year-old guitarist and educator was apparently in serious financial trouble, and his wife Katherine had launched a GoFundMe page in an attempt to set the family’s house in order. On that page, she listed a cascading series of misfortunes: an accident that her husband had suffered after his 85th-birthday concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall, mounting medical expenses, identity theft, bank fraud, ravaged credit scores, an ongoing homeowners’ association lawsuit. The Burrells were broke. They might end up on the street. And they were trying to raise $100,000.

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Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.