Saturday, June 13, 2009

"The Jazz Sound of The Don Burrows Quartet" (1966)

"Kaffir Song" excerpt


I want to write about some ideas here, so click the preview above for a soundtrack while you read. While I've been following a couple of strands in 70s Australian jazz, I've also been listening to a lot of 'library' music, and have been led to wonder why I hear so many similar stylistic threads across these two genres.

Library music, for those unaware, is music composed under contract to companies who subsequently sell it off to film makers, TV programs and commercials, usually by genre - action, romance and so on. Strangely, this older production process is most closely paralled in the production and marketing of contemporary pop music, as the large companies battle to get singles from their latest flash-in-the-pan starlets over the credits of the latest teen slasher film ...

A lot of library music records from the 1970s (and more recently, the 1980s) have retrospectively been hailed as great music, although they were not taken seriously back in the day. In the same way that we recycle fashions and cultures from decades past - by reducing them to signifiers, dressing with an 80s "look" taken from a video clip rather than dressing like people actually dressed in the 1980s - over time we appreciate the reductionist vision of something like "soundalike" blaxploitation library music; whereas back-in-the-day we may have seen it as a gauche simulacrum of what we considered to be "real".

In some ways the Australia of my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s was a "library culture", a distant vision of an idea of England transplanted into a hostile climate. As a then-anglo culture, we would sweat it out over a hot oven roast for Christmas lunch (these days it's cold seafood) in a mid-summer temperature of 40 degrees, the sun nearly melting the fake Christmas snow that shopkeepers would spray onto their windows from a can. Heavily winter-robed Santas would faint in shopping centres from heat exhaustion. As late as the early 80s I remember marvelling at the 60s 'mod' revivalists sweating it out in their thick parkas in the hot summer sun, as they rode their scooters in formation to Bondi Beach. A copy of a copy of a copy.

It was a million miles away from the diverse Sydney that I live in now, with its essentially eurasian population - we all eat with chopsticks as much as with knives and forks - with architecture that begins to emerge from the urban environment rather than pining for an imagined homeland, and social mores that reflect a mix of cultures, sexualities and peoples.

Musically - particularly in genres with an african or afro-american heritage, such as jazz - in these earlier times we were a step further removed from the European distillation of jazz that occured from interaction with American players - on the other side of the planet, we'd copy the distillation, which is perhaps why some of the Australian jazz of the period - Crossfire, Galapagos Duck and others- reminds me of some of the MPS catalogue.

With a small population, jazz players and composers were also forced to find employment wherever they could, often composing for nature documentaries, TV shows, commercials, corporate videos - whatever they could get. This would often make up the majority of their recorded output, and thus it was natural for some of the made-to-style aesthetics to carry across to their "own" records - music that refers to jazz, or as in the title of this record, a "Jazz sound".

I'm starting this strand of exploration with this particular record because it features two of the people I'm going to track across a few albums each, woodwind player Don Burrows and percussionist/vibraphonist John Sangster. You might know their sound from a series of better-known soundtrack albums by film composer Sven Libaek, such as the underground "Inner Space" soundtrack for a television ocean documentary, and "Solar Flares". Burrows' tenor and breathy flute, together with Sangster's vibes, are pretty much the hallmark of the Libaek sound.

Most of the other players here would also appear on Libaek's soundtracks, as well as Burrows' earlier, great soundtrack for the 1968 film "2000 Weeks". Interestingly, that film itself engaged with the same concerns of "faux-English" culture that I was talking about above. Now, I'm with Bacoso in his summation of Burrows' 70s albums there - they're uneven, always include some stinkers, and his constant guitarist George Golla was always a somewhat-constrained, workhorse jazz musician. Neverthless, there are some good moments on several of these albums that I'm going to try and extract.

In retrospect, I think Burrows' importance in Australian jazz was more that he attempted to explore beyond his own capabilities and experience, delving into many musical cultures, and opening the eyes of people who were attracted to his own easy style, but subsequently led to other places. John Sangster, however, went on to achieve more in his own explorations.

This album was originally released in 1966 on EMI/Columbia, then re-released in 1977.

The '77 version has a cover (above) that could have resulted from a psychedelic battle between the various 1970s wallpapers that inhabited my childhood home, with everything eventually merging to a sullen, browny pink. I've put both covers in the downloads so that you can choose your favourite.

"Kaffir Song" excerpt

Although this is neither a library nor a soundtrack album, the good tracks here are the ones that reference other musical cultures in what I'd call a "library style". I can imagine some sections of Sangster's "Kaffir Song" played over flickering black-and-white 50s footage of African natives on a hunting expedition, with a jokey faux-British voiceover contextualising their exploits for Harry and Mabel back home. But I like it for Sangster's vibes workout and Burrows' fife sound.

"Esa Cara" excerpt

Burrow's "Esa Cara" shows his burgeoning interest in the rhythms and melodies of Brazil, a fascination that would later result in a number of interesting collaborations. I like the sweetness of his tenor here, even if it does dive for the easy harmonic resolve a little more often than the relative boldness of 'actual' Brazilian harmonic progression.

"Rain On Water" excerpt

Starting with a cymbal crash, Sangster's "Rain On Water" would go well with faded colour 16mm footage of Japanese people undertaking some sort of religious ceremony (El Goog reaching adulthood? Wara Katsu attaining ninja status?) - perhaps with a dissolved overlay of falling cherry blossoms. It's a distant Antipodean idea of "Japanese-ness" that I somehow like on its own referential terms.

"De Veras?" has some good melodies, but after that we descend into the elevator filler. Generally we've got sparse textures here - there's no drum kit apart from on the closer "Pink Gin". Sangster later developed his skills as a drummer on the local stage version of 'Jesus Christ Superstar', but after this album the quartet took on Alan Turnbull as a drummer while Sangster went off to develop his own work.

Anyway, I'm clearly back to my long rants, so I'll leave you to check this one out. Let me know what you think of it.


MP3 - WAV 


1. "Kaffir Song" - 4:27 - (John Sangster)
2. "Love Is For the Very Young" - 2:25 - (David Raksin, arr. Golla)
3. "Esa Cara" - 3:18 - (Don Burrows)
4. "Slightly Blue" - 5:50 - (Don Burrows)
5. "Hard Sock" - 4:06 - (Don Burrows)
6. "Rain On Water" - 3:25 - (John Sangster)
7. "Algeciras" - 3:13 - (John Sangster)
8. "De Veras?" - 3:29 - (George Golla)
9. "Pink Gin" - 3:50 - (George Golla)


Don Burrows - fife, flute, alto flute, clarinet, alto saxaphone
John Sangster - vibes, percussion
Ed Gaston - bass
George Golla - guitar


Produced by Eric Dunn
Columbia-EMI SCXO 7781
Recorded on
8 June & 5 October 1966
re-release 1977 : World Record Club R 05193
Liner notes by John Rippin


#1 : Don Burrows - "The Jazz Sound of the Don Burrows Quartet" (1966)
#2 : Don Burrows - "The Tasman Connection" (1976)
#3 : John Sangster - "Australia and All That Jazz - Vol. 1" (1971)


Vinyl rip by Simon666 (WAV/MP3)
Album links in this post go to Orgy In Rhythm, The Manchester Morgue and Holy Warbles.
Please thank these folks if you visit them and snatch their records.


ish said...

Downloading now, Simon, thanks.

I really enjoyed reading your essay on the evolution of Australian culture revealed through music. A new multicultural Eurasian reality sounds more vibrant than staring over the water trying to catch a glimpse of the cold shores of Albion.

Somehow your essay reminded me of this bitterly funny web post from "Stuff white people like":
As a white guy who spends most of his time listening to black musicians who are no longer so popular my first reaction was "ouch." But when you talk about Australian jazz musicians evolving an identity in a music form so rooted in such a distant culture as the African-American one it kinda provides a hopeful counterpoint to the 21st-century despair of "stuff white people like" revisionism and cynicism. Though I daresay I would hope that modern jazz musicians might lay the word "kaffir" aside...isn't that a south African form of the "n" word? Anyway what starts out as vicarious exotica can sometimes transform into expanded consciousness. Well, or not. Anyway, thanks again for the mental stimulation.

CJS said...

I always heard George Golla as precisely as you described him in your essay. "Saw" being the right word.
One night a few years ago (this century) I had the pleasure of standing next to him at Sydney's The Basement on stage providing bass for him for, I think, guitarist Albert Calvo song with the band Espirito, details fail but the location is right.

The MoFo can play!

It was like being next to a jazz Hendrix. It was metal, hard rock, jazz, experimental, funky, loose, strident.
He blew me away.
I realise then how much Don actually NEEDED George Golla.
That night I saw George doesn't need Don, at all.
Australian jazz needs George right now.

Simon666 said...

@ ish :
Read that one before but it was worth a re-read. The "classic hip hop" one always hits home for me :)

@ CJS :
Thanks for your story. Say hi to your blog collaborator Jack from me - he's an ex-student of mine ..

CJS said...

Hey Simon666
Yes, Jack and I just finished our cd!
Under "Flatwound" (not the C&W band)
He's gone o/s for 3 mths, world road trip and life changing experience.
I will definitely pass on your regards.

Ian said...

Thoughtful foray into some interesting phenomena, equally relevant (I would think) to French or Italian or even British library/soundtrack music--and probably to their takes on American rock and roll, too. There will always be usurpation, exploitation, crass theft, etc.--but much of the "funky" and "jazz sound" music of the late 60s and 70s has, to my ears, more than mere imitation going on--and more than "whitification". There's an interplay of cultures, in the tradition of early American jazz or blues, and later early rock and funk, in the melding of disparate cultural ideas. Sometimes the willingness to forgo "authenticity," to absorb influence from that which excites us but of which we're not "authentically a part," and do our own thing with it is absolutely necessary for exciting popular music to develop.

Certainly this is the case with, say, Americans of African ancestry taking up "European" instruments and absorbing some European melodic traditions, combining these with disparate African traditions, and creating the earliest Jazz. No less when Fela Kuti hears James Brown, who himself is blending fantastic elements of culturally-hybrid musical forms into funk, and reinterprets it as Afrobeat. Or how this turns back through the South and the Carribean, via R&B, becomes reggae, is married with technology into dub, is picked up by white art school students in England and Germany. . . Or when a post-punk track made in a cold European style influenced by Eurofunk but also incorporating latin rhythms is then sampled into a bedrock track of hip-hop. . .

The interplay is not about seeking "authenticity," but neither is it thievery. Or if it is--it is what keeps pop music alive and thriving, that theft, without which things become hyper-specialised audio straight-jackets like sundry "real" Metal or hip-hop or "true" dance strains. And so even the purportedly crass and ersatz worlds of 70s soundtrack music and sound library make sense as a perfect melting pot of influence and innovation, in many ways because there was never any pretense that this was "authentic" music belonging to any one culture or lineage. You know--and it just sounds great, and is a fantastic well that's been kept relatively secret for many years and so is perfect for geeks like us : )

Ian said...

BTW, thanks for this and many other lovely albums you share, excited to hear this one in particular, as a Libaek fan. You might enjoy some of the mixes I make, especially those in the 'Musique du Monde' series, at my blog Musicophilia:

Simon666 said...

Thanks for your thoughts Ian.
To be clear, I wasn't criticising these musics as "inauthentic" or advocating an idea/ideal of authenticity - and I'm genuinely curious about the shifting nature of those definitions themselves, for example, the ever-changing nature of "realness" in hip hop, a fluid field if there ever was one :)
I guess the picture I was trying to sketch here distinguishes between something like the cultural interplay and exchange of which you speak (and which I refer to as the idea of "distillation"), and my childhood experience of an isolated culture that didn't seek to re-interpret, but rather to 're-create' or replicate another culture; which I found to be an interesting metaphor for the process of of envisaging and producing library music.

Anyway thanks again and I'll have a trawl through your blog. Stick around, If you're a Libaek fan I think you'll like a few of the Sangster albums that I'll post over the next few weeks :)

Anonymous said...

now grabbing and am very interested in Australian music scene of your childhood. looking forward to listening this.
thank you Simon :)

Quimsy said...

this is much appreciated Simon. Ozzie jazz from this period is quite superb and much under-represented with reissues and on blogs alike.

There's something intangibly melancholic & pastural that is uniquely Australian about these recordings, there's no doubt they possess their own 'sound'.

Hopefully this post will spark renewed interest

Simon666 said...

Thanks WK and Quimsy, hope you enjoy it :)

taro nombei said...

That's a great write-up, Simon, but my first reaction was that the music probably didn't warrant a full listen. The 'Rain on Water' excerpt puts me more in mind of Bali-exotica than anything Japanese. So I really didn't think it was worth listening to the full album...
But reading the comments, my interest is piqued. As soon as Rapidshare gives me the bandwidth, I'll be in there.
thanks as always.

Jazzjet said...

Thanks Simon for another fascinating and thought-provoking post. As a Brit, the amount I know about Australian jazz is minimal. The story of how different countries' jazz culture developed is an interesting one and deserves a proper study. Your blog keeps provoking me to set up a British jazz blog of my own. I'm not aware of a blog specifically devoted to this area, apart from the Ronnie Ross site.
Once again, thanks for a great blog.

Simon666 said...

Thanks for commenting Jazzjet and Taro Nombei ...
@ TN - although this album, as a whole, doesn't warrant such a post (hope i've been clear that I'm mixed about it) - the writeup is really more about the sub-genre, and setting up a series of posts. That said, the Japanese reference in "Rain On Water" is clearer from the whole track, I've just posted the bit of it that I like best - which, as you say is not very 'japanese' at all - but in some ways, one thing about exotica is that they 'get it wrong' as well ..

stav ros said...

thanks for this simon, looking forward to hearing. the cover from 1977 looks like a world record club repackaging


Ian said...


No worries about "authenticity" on my part--that's usually a term used in a context of ironically artificial exclusivity that I find stultifying.

When I think about the process you call "distillation," I don't necessarily think only of conscious (or self-conscious) reinterpretation--I imagine, especially in the 60s-70s, the process of filtration of one sound (of "the other") through another dislocated set of ears, plenty of artists thought they were simply "re-creating" the music fairly faithfully. And there are successful examples of "re-creation" as such, to be sure, especially in library stuff, like Luis Vecchio & Peter Reno's surprisingly "true-to-form" 'Afro-Rock' LP.

But intent doesn't really enter into it, on some level--everybody adds their own flare, individual and cultural, to what make from inspiration, whether they seek to "interpret" or to "re-create"--at least if they have talent and integrity in the first place. To me that's what's exciting about it--the interplay of the source and the new lens, however conscious or organic that interplay may be. Of course there were and are rip-off schemers; but to my ears this music has such a clear fondness for its inspiration that it would be hard to read crass theft into it.

It can all get into the realm of kitsch, sure (the melting snow you describe would be hard to appreciate for an outsider except as such) and as you say, musically a lot of it is a mixed bag; but I like that you're looking at it with sincere fondness and emotion, too. And I will be listening/reading eagerly!

Sun Zoo said...

Snacks for my ears but more food for thoughts...thanks mightily.

Reza said...

Outstanding !!!
Thank you simon so appreciated, lovely recording

Simon666 said...

Thanks Reza and Sun Zoo ..

@ steve hurley -
Spot on, it's a World Record Club re-release, my parents used to get them through the mail ..

Bacoso said...

Terrific lp-this is one of the best Burrows I've heard along with "2000 Weeks".Pity so much of his later output was so dissapointing I sold 3 of 'em only last week.Reckon Sangster gives it the edge over the later stuff.Thanks a lot for sharing and the interesting write up.

pollux said...

Many thanks Simon, beautiful album !

Simon666 said...

Hi Guys -
Just posted another Don Burrows album, this time it's "The Tasman Connection" from 1976 :

Hanimex 3000 said...

I share Reza & Bacoso's opinions: really tasteful bossa novas! I just listened to the excerpts and they're simply beautiful!

Simon666 said...

Just managed to find out that this album was recorded on 8 June & 5 October 1966; so have altered the post accordingly.

taro nombei said...

Hi Simon,
I've got to say I really enjoyed quite a lot of bits of this -- including the 'rain' track. It definitely has a feel to it. Looking forward to upcoming Oz-jazz posts.

Yup (@ Ish) keffir really doesn't pass muster, does it (except when it's a kind of lime leaf we put in our Thai curry.)

Ian said...

Well there are some pretty deep posts above. I'm listening to these tunes because you made it seem like I would be missing out and that this might be something special. That is what sharing music is about, education and sharing passion for good music. Thanks again

Arkadin said...

2 weeks after posting... But I guess it's never too late saying thanks for this really nice piece of music and your interesting essay which has to be called pioneer work as there are not many informations about the Australian jazz scence of that time in blogland. Thanks! :)

Simon666 said...

Thanks Arkadin, glad you liked it - been held up with the next post in this series because it has a damn booklet in the sleeve , 32 scans argggh! :)

Dillon Padgette said...

I must say, thank you for this! It is some great music, and the entire blog it's self is beyond thanking!

Dillon P

alphabet said...

I throughly enjoy reading your mini-essays on the albums posted. The fact that you put so much into each post is truly astounding. Thanks

Ian said...

Meant to say, after all my quasi-relevant blabbing earlier--really loved this album! Not thinking about it too much, it just really did it for me. Found nothing ersatz about it, just lovely grooving jazz in a nice Desmond-ish vein, with some touches of third stream sophistication--and the warmth of Libaek, certainly. The "exoticism" was pretty subtle, imo, and tastefully executed. Thanks much, again!

Simon666 said...

Hi folks – more of these musicians in a new post of John Sangster – “Australia and all that Jazz – Vol 1” (1971), come check it out ☺

Esty said...

Wow - this blog is awesome - love your work

Simon666 said...

Thanks Esty

ratso said...

I liked the comments about George Golla that CJS left. Here is a 1970 Goerge Golla album for all to enjoy. 1970 Composers Gallery vinyl rip @320

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ratso,

Simon666, hi, news: Jack is well and truly back and we've written a followup album. 1st one due Oct.
The 12" is on the shelves and on the digi.

Reagrds to this great blog and the community.


Simon666 said...

Big thanks for that Ratso!

Saw your post at Midoz as well. Doing a bit of investigation into it and might ask you a few things soon ..... well, if I can ask now, is it on an ABC radio internal label, or is it "Horizon Records" New Zealand ?

And hi CJS, that's good news, look forward to hearing it :)

ratso said...

Blue and silver festival label with a promo copy sticker. Fairly rare I reckon

Quimsy said...

A great many thx for this Ratso - rare indeed!
Any chance of a cover scan?

Simon666 said...

Hi Quimsy,
not sure if Ratso's checking here, but we had a further discussion about it on the Midoztouch site ... I did a little research and tracked down part of a cover, as he bought it without one :

Quimsy said...

cheers Simon - better than nout!

øשlqæda said...

sorry to have been so late on this but happy to finally hear it, even in a roundabout way :) fanx for the shout

jazztap said...


PeterF said...

Hello Simon, I've just discovered your incredible site. I'm also a big Fender Rhodes fan. Thank you so much for sharing all this incredible music. This one is my absolute favourite... I find its clarity and warmth incredibly moving.

Anonymous said...

A remarkable exchange of views on the nature of music and musical influences. Well put forward. It's what lifts your blog among the very best.


Sellino Films said...

I listen to library music because it reminds me of my childhood.

During the Seventies, I lived on a small farm and enjoyed watching the educational network, NET, which became PBS. Library music from Britain and my native America was used extensively in virtually every film, television episode and interstitional PBS aired. As young as five, I was exposed to the work of Keith Mansfield, Alan Hawkshaw and Syd Dale. These men influenced my musical tastes. They became what my young mind called "music".

Today, in my forties, I listen to library music wherever and whenever I can. The jazz sensibility stimulates my thoughts and provokes creative ideas the way no other genre can, for me. The Rhodes, I find, is soothing - and I'm not alone! Many Rhodes fans my age comment to one another about how comforting the Rhodes sound is. When I hear Rhodes over jazz, suddenly this modern world with all its agonies is gone.

I am immersed happily again in a time before 1979, where the sun seemed to shine every day, when people seemed to smile more, and I had very few cares in life. Rhodes even helps me sleep.

Library music arguably is the Motown of Generation X. You wonder aloud why we like listening to it.

My question is, how could we not?


Anonymous said...

Hi! I've been listening to the mp3 version and it's great. Any chance of a repost of the FLAC version? The RS links are dead. :( Thanks!

Simon666 said...

New links are in the post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Much appreciated.

Scraps said...

Thank you for the essay. I can't really comment about the thoughts, except that I resonated with them. (Post-stroke has my brain scrambled, so that my thoughts in reaction are amorphous. But your writing is very good, and I can't let it pass unremarked.)

Simon666 said...

Glad you resonated with it, Scraps, thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...


Any thoughts on the Eric Jupp version of "Kaffir Song"?


Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog. Really enjoyed this entry and the discussion that ensued. ish's link to 'stuff white people like' made me laugh out loud multiple times. Working in radio my entire adult life, it makes me wish I'd ever really LISTENED to these albums instead of scanning the first few seconds of each track looking for a suitable music bed for that furniture store ad. Once I un-rar some of the music I'll chime in with more useful comments. Until then, THANKS!