b. Donald Vernon Burrows, 8 August 1928, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Burrows became interested in music as a child, playing flute in a school band, and in his very early teens was sufficiently developed to work regularly in clubs playing various reed instruments, mostly clarinet. He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in the early 40s and despite his youth, but perhaps in part as a result of the loss of musicians to the armed forces, he became principal clarinettist with the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Symphony Orchestra. He also played with the ABC Dance Band, helping him build a career in radio and later in television. However, he continued to play jazz whenever the opportunity was presented, recording in 1945 with George Trevare’s jazz group. In the 60s he worked for a while with George Golla, touring internationally. In the early years of the following decade he led his own band on overseas trips making acclaimed appearances at major festivals, and became a recipient of the MBE.
In the 80s he turned more and more to teaching, having earlier established a jazz studies programme at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music (of which he became the director in 1980). Burrows also continued his television work, this time presenting his own music series, The Burrows Collection. He continued to tour, visiting China, and time and again proved his consistency and the breadth of a range that covers post-swing and bop. Burrows’ command of his instruments allows him to play with great fluency, delivering thoughtful and technically demanding solos with wit and a great sense of swing.