Arts + Culture

Kenny Burrell joined by jazz legends for 80th birthday concert

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Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stevie Wonder and B.B. King perform with Kenny Burrell
Reed Johnson

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stevie Wonder and B.B. King with Kenny Burrell at Royce Hall.

This weekend at Royce Hall, UCLA Live, the Friends of Jazz and a bevy of talented faculty and students from UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture joined music greats B.B. King, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lalo Schifrin and surprise guest Stevie Wonder to celebrate the life and influential career of guitar great Kenny Burrell, founder of the jazz studies program at UCLA.

The audience delighted in the unexpected appearance of Stevie Wonder, who, with harmonica in hand, joined the show in the middle of B.B. King’s energizing set for an impromptu blues riff with Burrell and King. Slated for a performance set later in the evening, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater strutted onstage early to join the celebration, ending the first half of a five-hour evening on a high note.

Faculty, staff and students spent months gearing up for this production, which featured the world premiere of a new orchestra work “Suite for Peace,” composed by Burrell, William Banfield, John Clayton, Nick DePinna, Charley Harrison, Llew Matthews and Patrick Williams. The UCLA Philharmonia orchestra performed the piece.

During the concert Burrell also debuted the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited, a group of professional jazz musicians that includes several UCLA faculty members. Burrell hopes the orchestra becomes a standing jazz performance troupe in Los Angeles, and serves as a prototype for standing jazz companies in other metropolitan areas.

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