Don Burrows

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Donald Vernon Burrows AO MBE (born 8 August 1928) is an Australian jazz and swing musician, a multi-instrumentalist who is best known for playing the clarinet, but also plays the saxophone and flute. For his contribution to the arts he had a supper club named for him at The Regent Hotel (now the Four Seasons Hotel) in Sydney, Australia.

Burrows is best known for his work with the Don Burrows Quartet, comprising Burrows (multiple woodwind):, George Golla (guitar), Ed Gaston (double bass) and Alan Turnbull (drums). Burrows is a recipient of both an MBE and AO. He has played with many world-renowned musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, James Morrison, Tony Bennett, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Stéphane Grappelli and Cleo Laine.

Life and career[edit]

Burrows was born in Sydney and attended Bondi Public School where, in 1937, a visiting flute virtuoso and teacher, Victor McMahon, played and inspired him to take up the flute. Initially it was a B-flat flute, which he had to pay off at sixpence per week. He later played the same little flute in Carnegie Hall, and at the Newport Jazz Festival.[1] By 1940 he was captain of the Metropolitan Schools Flute Band and studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.[2]

By 1942 Burrows took up clarinet and played on The Youth Show, a Macquarie Radio show. In 1944 he was invited to play and record with George Trevare's Australians. He became well known in Sydney jazz circles and was playing in dance halls, nightclubs and radio bands.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Burrows was the best-known jazz musician in Australia and had many engagements in Australia and the United States, including six years performing at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney.[3] In 1972, he was invited to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival[4] and later the Newport Jazz Festival.

The year 1973 was a watershed one for Burrows as he received the first gold record for an Australian jazz musician for his record Just the Beginning,[5] instigated the first jazz studies program in the southern hemisphere, at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music (under the direction of Rex Hobcroft) and was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).[6] In 1979 he was appointed Chair of Jazz Studies at the Conservatorium.

Burrows has performed to mostly classical music audiences through tours with Musica Viva and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation concert series. He fronted the nationally televised show The Don Burrows Collection for six years. He has an extensive recording career in his own right with his groups and has performed on many more albums with other artists.

In the 1980s, Burrows was associated closely with the then young James Morrison.

In 2005, Burrows toured with a small band including the Australian jazz pianist Kevin Hunt.[7] He used his photographic images with his music in a show called Stop, Look and Listen.

He now lives in a nursing home in northern Sydney where he is regularly visited by old friends including James Morrison, George Golla and Kevin Hunt.[8]


Social matters and interests[edit]

Burrows lived in Paynesville on the Gippsland Lakes of Victoria.

He had a lifelong hobby of black-and-white photography, beginning in his 20s as an active participant in the Sans Souci and Caringbah camera clubs in Sydney. He sees the creativity of music and photography having significant similarities. He was also an avid fly fisherman.

Burrows has had arthritis from age 38. In a 2008 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Andrew Ford, celebrating his 80th birthday, he said that "arthritis is not the greatest for playing a musical instrument. But playing a musical instrument is very, very good for arthritis".[12]

Partial discography[edit]

  • 1966 The Jazz Sound of the Don Burrows Quartet, Columbia Records
  • 1969 2000 Weeks (OST), EMI SCXO-7883
  • 1971 Just the beginning
  • 1972 Live at Montreux, Cherry Pie Records
  • 1974 The Don Burrows Quartet at the Sydney Opera House, Cherry Pie
  • 1975 The New Don Burrows Quintet
  • 1975 Duo, Don Burrows & George Golla, Cherry Pie
  • 1975 The Saxophone Artistry of Don Burrows, Columbia
  • 1976 The Tasman Connection, Cherry Pie Records
  • 1976 Someone who cares, Cherry Pie
  • 1976 Cool Yule, Cherry Pie
  • 1977 Steph 'n' Us, Stephane Grappelli/Don Burrows & George Golla Duo
  • 1977 Don Burrows and the Brazilian Connection, Cherry Pie
  • 1978 At The Sydney Opera House, Cherry Pie
  • 1979 Other places other times, Don Burrows & George Golla Duo, Cherry Pie
  • 1979 Bonfa Burrows Brazil, (with Luis Bonfa), Cherry Pie. Rereleased in 1988 by Cherry Pie on CD.
  • 1979 Back in Town, Andrews/Brown/Burrows/Turnbull, 44 records
  • 1980 Brazilian Parrot
  • 1982 Jazz Brothers – A Retrospective, ABC Music
  • 1982 Sara Dane: Music Inspired by the T.V. Series
  • 1984 Burrows at the Winery, ABC
  • 1985 Makin Whoopee, ABC
  • 1985 Jazz at the Opera House
  • 1986 Flute Salad, Don Burrows & Chris Hinze, ABC
  • 1990 The Babinda Trilogy, Warner Bros. Records
  • 1993 Don Burrows - The First 50 Years (collection of 73 tracks from 1944 to 1992 on 5 CDs) (PolyGram)
  • 1994 Together at last, Julie Anthony & Don Burrows
  • 1994 Strings of Swing, Ian Cooper
  • 1999 Whenever, Morrison Records
  • 2005 Non-stop Flight, Don Burrows & The Mell-O-Tones


  1. ^ Ford, Andrew. "ABC Radio National". The Music Show. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  2. ^ Haesler, Bill. "Jazz in Australia". Archived from the original on 8 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  3. ^ Shand, John. "Bassist's style was music to the ears". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 May 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "'Just the Beginning' on australianscreen online". Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  6. ^ It's an Honour – Member of the Order of the British Empire
  7. ^ Award-winning jazz performer Kevin Hunt Archived 15 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Cheshire, Ben. "Don Burrows: Jazz legend who mentored James Morrison plays on, despite dementia". Australian Boroadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  9. ^ It's an Honour – Officer of the Order of Australia
  10. ^ "2004 Winners – APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 8 March 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  11. ^ Jackson, Andra (3 May 2007). "For jazz Hall of Fame, it's plain and simple: is Don, is good". The Age. Melbourne.
  12. ^ "Don Burrows transcript". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) The Music Show. 9 August 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2008.

External links[edit]