Doyen of Australian jazz, Donald Don Vernon Burrows, had been at the forefront of Australian jazz for over six decades. He was an excellent musician, playing flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto and baritone saxophones. He was also a composer and arranger and could play in any jazz style.
In Don Burrows was part of an Australian fly-fishing team competing in Cuba. The members were in their hotel bar when a local band began to play, and, Burrows — being Burrows — had a flute on him, and joined in. The amazed musicians asked through an interpreter how he knew the songs. The Cubans were keen to play more, but the competition took Burrows away for the next week. Don Burrows with just one of the many instruments he played, Credit: Dallas Kilponen. Every band wants to play two tunes with you.
Burrows was born in Boorowa, New South Wales, into a musical family. His father, Bill Burrows, was a baker and played the piano and trumpet while his mother, Ivy, sang and played the piano. Bill Burrows was also a member of the town band under conductor Albert Bryce, the father of noted Australian composer Eric Bryce. In , Burrows moved with his parents to Bondi in Sydney where his father purchased his own bakery. Burrows attended school at Bondi Public School. In a visiting flutist and teacher, Victor McMahon , inspired him to start learning the flute.
The Australian jazz icon Don Burrows has died aged Burrows was responsible for taking Australian jazz to the world stage, as well as bringing it into homes across the country through his countless TV appearances and recordings. On 12 March, an era of Australian music ended after the multi-instrumentalist died peacefully in his hometown of Sydney. Whether touring the world, hosting television shows or helping establish the very first jazz course in Australia at the fabled Sydney Conservatorium, Burrows helped popularise Australian improvised music and brought it into the public consciousness. The reedsman could also lay claim to a number of firsts in Aussie jazz: he was the first local jazz artist to win a gold record for his album Just The Beginning , the first Australian act to perform at both the Newport Jazz Festival in the US and the European Montreux Jazz Festival, and the first local jazz player to be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Burrows grew up by the beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs, first picking up the flute in By the time the '40s rolled around, the young flute player had also picked up the clarinet — and was making the most of a shortage of older musicians, many of whom had been shipped off to World War II. Along with studies at the Sydney Conservatorium, Burrows could be found performing stints on the radio and busking in music stores, before going on to feature in various local swing and dance bands. The war also meant that many American troops were being rotated in-and-out of Australia: often, they would take the opportunity to perform locally, and Don would be there to see them play and also grab any loose V-Discs — or Victory discs — that were given out to U.