It’s terribly sad to hear that Kenny Burrell, premier guitarist from Blue Note’s golden era of the late 50s and early 60s, has fallen on hard times. In poor health and a recent victim of identity theft scammers who robbed him of all his savings, 87-year old Burrell has resorted to raising alms from Gofundme, the online crowd-funding platform.
The effort is being coordinated by his wife Katherine, who says that the couple are facing possible bank foreclosure and homelessness on top of mounting medical bills. “It saddens and embarrasses me to desperately need and request help, but it is necessary at this point”, she says on the musician’s gofundme webpage.
Happily, Burrell’s legion fans are coming to his rescue and at the time of writing over $200,000 has been pledged. High-profile donors include John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny and Blue Note boss Don Was.
“He’s one of the greatest improvising musicians of the past 100 years or so”, Metheny said before a show in Maine earlier this week, according to a report in the Washington Post newspaper. “It’s horrible to think it has come to this”.
Detroit-born Burrell made his first recording with Dizzy Gillespie in 1951. After moving to New York he recorded prolifically and made a mark working with organist Jimmy Smith. Furthering the Charlie Christian style of playing, melding blues and bop, his standout albums include Kenny Burrell With John Coltrane, Guitar Forms with Gil Evans and Midnight Blue, featuring Stanley Turrentine.
The Washington Post published a followup, “A jazz legend said he was in desperate need of money. His friends had questions”, on 11 July.