Donald Vernon ("Don") Burrows AO MBE (born 8 August 1928) is an Australian jazz and swing musician, a multi-instrumentalist who is best known for playing the clarinet, but also plays the saxophone and flute. For his contribution to the arts he had a supper club named for him at The Regent Hotel (now the Four Seasons Hotel) in Sydney, Australia.
Burrows is best known for his work with the Don Burrows Quartet, comprising Burrows (multiple woodwind):, George Golla (guitar), Ed Gaston (double bass) and Alan Turnbull (drums). Burrows is a recipient of both an MBE and AO. He has played with many world-renowned musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, James Morrison, Tony Bennett, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Ste;phane Grappelli and Cleo Laine.
Burrows was born in Sydney and attended Bondi Public School where, in 1937, a visiting flute virtuoso and teacher, Victor McMahon, played and inspired him to take up the flute. Initially it was a B-flat flute, which he had to pay off at sixpence per week. He later played the same little flute in Carnegie Hall at the Newport Jazz Festival. By 1940 he was captain of the Metropolitan Schools Flute Band and studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
By 1942 Burrows took up clarinet and played on The Youth Show, a Macquarie Radio show. In 1944 he was invited to play and record with George Trevare's Australians. He became well known in Sydney jazz circles and was playing in dance halls, nightclubs and radio bands.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Burrows was the best-known jazz musician in Australia and had many engagements in Australia and the United States, including six years performing at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney. In 1972, he was invited to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival and later the Newport Jazz Festival.
The year 1973 was a watershed one for Burrows as he received the first gold record for an Australian jazz musician for his record Just the Beginning, instigated the first jazz studies program in the southern hemisphere, at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music (under the direction of Rex Hobcroft) and was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In 1979 he was appointed Chair of Jazz Studies at the Conservatorium.
Burrows has performed to mostly classical music audiences through tours with Musica Viva and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation concert series. He fronted the nationally televised show The Don Burrows Collection for six years. He has an extensive recording career in his own right with his groups and has performed on many more albums with other artists.
In the 1980s, Burrows was associated closely with the then young James Morrison.
He now lives in a nursing home in a northern Sydney where he is regularly visited by old friends including James Morrison, George Golla and Kevin Hunt.
He had a lifelong hobby of black-and-white photography, beginning in his 20s as an active participant in the Sans Souci and Caringbah camera clubs in Sydney. He sees the creativity of music and photography having significant similarities. He was also an avid fly fisherman.
Burrows has had arthritis from age 38. In a 2008 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Andrew Ford, celebrating his 80th birthday, he said that "arthritis is not the greatest for playing a musical instrument. But playing a musical instrument is very, very good for arthritis".