Kenneth Earl Burrell (born July 31, 1931) is an American jazz guitarist known for his work on the Blue Note label. His collaborations with Jimmy Smith produced the 1965 Billboard Top Twenty hit album Organ Grinder Swing. He has cited jazz guitarists Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardtas influences, along with blues guitarists T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters. Furthermore, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan have cited Burrell as an influence. Burrell is a professor and Director of Jazz Studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.
Burrell was born in Detroit, Michigan. Both his parents played instruments, and he began playing guitar at the age of 12 after listening Charlie Christian‘s recordings. During World War II, due to metal shortage, he abandoned the idea of becoming a saxophonist, and bought an acoustic guitarfor $10. He was inspired to play jazz after listening to Oscar Moore, but it was Django Reinhardt who showed him “that you could get your own individuality on an instrument.” He went on to study composition and theory with Louis Cabara and classical guitar with Joe Fava. While a student at Wayne State University, he made his recording debut as a member of Dizzy Gillespie‘s sextet in 1951, followed by the “Rose of Tangier”/”Ground Round” single recorded under his own name at Fortune Records in Detroit. While in college, Burrell founded the New World Music Society collective with fellow Detroit musicians Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Elvin Jones, and Yusef Lateef.