Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Don Burrows part two

In their own words

Recorded 1974

Don Burrows part two
Audio: 2 minutes

The most commonly asked question, I think, of people who aren’t in jazz or are not really conversant with jazz is: what is jazz? It’s a question you’re asked so many times and so often by so many people that it almost demands an answer, even if I really in my heart feel it doesn’t deserve one. By that I mean that it’s such an intangible – it’s only a word, jazz is only a word.

Summing it up, I think the quote I made to The New York Times in 1972 and which seemed to get a good deal of attention, is as good now as it was then. And that is, I said to them ‘Jazz is not a “what” (in inverted commas), it’s a “how” (in inverted commas)’. It’s how you do something, it’s not a cut and dried affair. And even with this jazz studies program at the Conservatorium, which people may be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that they’re going to go there and learn how to play jazz, that’s not totally so. Because if you’re not born to play jazz, nobody can teach you to play it. All we do there, hopefully, is assist them in their development, maybe save them years and give them the benefit of our years of experience in it, but hopefully to mould them to do it their way, not our way, because that’s the big thing jazz is, it’s a person’s personality and his way of expressing through music, it’s not perpetuating something that was written centuries ago, on the contrary, it’s happening right now, and right at this minute it’s changing constantly.

There are idioms, there are pockets of jazz, there are sort of schools of thought in jazz, there is Dixieland music, there is bebop, but each of these were developmental areas of jazz, stages of jazz.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Don Burrows is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

Related people

Don Burrows

Related information

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency