Don Burrows, Australia Jazz Legend, Dies at 91

SMH Picture by Dallas Kilponen

Musician Don Burrows relaxes after a recording session at his North Shore home, Sydney, 12 July 2001.

Australian jazz great Don Burrows has died after a years-long battle with dementia. He was 91.

Burrows, an ARIA Hall of Fame inductee who was twice named as one of Australia's living national treasures, passed away peacefully on Thursday night (March 12), ending an era in Australian music, say friends of the artist.

Fellow jazz legend James Morrison paid tribute to the flutist, who he described as a mentor and a dear friend.

“He had many great sayings but one struck me the most – ‘You’re only as good as the company you keep,’ and in his company, I’ve been my best,” Morrison notes.

“Don achieved so many things and received so many accolades - but I know the only thing that really mattered to him was to pass on his gift and leave the world a little bit better place…rest easy mate, job done.”

Burrows and Morrison were also collaborators, their 2015 album In Good Company (ABC Jazz) an award-winner.

On its release, Burrows explained: “Jazz is music that is passed on to each new generation by playing it, you can’t learn it from the written page, or even by being told about it – you have to jam together. This means that most musicians of this genre have a mentor, and I was lucky enough to have the best.”

In Good Company went on to win for best independent jazz album at the AIR Independent Music Awards.

During his stellar career, Burrows performed with the likes of Stéphane Grapelli, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Oscar Peterson and many others.

“We are sad to hear about the passing of Don Burrows at age 91,” reads a statement issued by ARIA. “The jazz legend brought joy to generations of Australians and music fans abroad.”

Born and raised by the beachside in Sydney's eastern suburbs, Burrows got a start as a teen playing in Sydney jazz bands, during a time when the Second World War had stripped the country of many musicians.

By the 1960s, he was Australia's best-known jazz musician, according to the ABC, during which time he became the first artist to earn a gold record for an Australian jazz recording, for his album Just The Beginning.

Burrows also helped establish the first jazz course in Australia at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and became the first Aussie to perform at both the Newport Jazz Festival in the U.S. and the European Montreux Jazz Festival

For a six-year stint during the 1980s, he fronted The Don Burrows Collection on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) TV.

In 1991, he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame alongside Billy Thorpe, Little River Band’s Glenn Shorrock and bass-baritone Pete Dawson. A true pioneer, he was the first jazz artist inducted into the Hall.

Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.