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.