Don Burrows was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to jazz in 1973. He was named an Australian Living Treasure in 1989 and 1999, for outstanding work in the jazz industry.
Now in his 80s, Burrows doesn’t play much anymore, but he sparkled through the Australian and international jazz scene for some 65 years, and this is officially his final album presented by ABC Jazz.
Burrows founded the first jazz studies program in the Southern Hemisphere in the mid 1970s, and he inspiring countless young jazz musicians to bring the same joy of music to people that he did. In fact Burrows was teacher and mentor to another Australian jazz great: James Morrison.
In this double disc In Good Company, the pair do what jazz musos do best: they have a musical conversation, often called a ‘jam.’ It represents an afternoon in the studio.
Morrison explains in the sleeve notes, that one of Burrows’ sayings was that you’re only as good as the company you keep. “In his company, I’ve been at my best,” Morrison says of Burrows.
Each is a virtuoso jazz man in the truest sense of the work, and each of them plays no less than three instruments: Don plays alto flute, clarinet and alto saxophone, and James plays trombone, bass trumpet and trumpet, accompanied by Phil Stack on acoustic bass.
(Burrows himself started playing the trombone in recent years, as arthritis made playing flute and clarinet impossible).
The languid feel of Day in the Life of a Fool is underpinned by a rhythmic urgency, and I Fall in Love Too Easily the impeccable sense of harmony, melody and timing that Burrows and Morrison possess.
I Thought About You was written by Jimmy Van Heuson in 1939 on a train trip to Chicago, and the mood here is somewhat cheeky, with various trombone glissandi, suggestive, and laid back.
A bonus disc of recordings from their early years together is featured – including a live recording from the Sydney Opera House, and the first-ever release on CD of ‘Essa Cara’, a Brazilian tune written by Don and recorded live in 1982.
In terms of WOW factor, Basin Blues, recorded at the Rothbury Estate in Pokolbin in 1983 is right up there.
Beginning with a brilliant trumpet flourish by Morrison, this extended version (at 12mins 9sec) features each player in virtuosic capacity.
It features Paul McNamarra on piano, Craig Scott on bass and Alan Turnbull on drums.
Some lovely old photographs of the Australian Jazz Orchestra are featured in the sleeve.
Hopefully one of Burrows’ best recordings: The Don Burrows Quartet – at The Sydney Opera House (1974) will one day be released on disc.
Meldi Arkinstall, CD-Music Reviews, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
In Good Company
Don Burrows, James Morrison
ABC Classics, Available on iTunes