Chris Burnett (born Christopher LeRoy Burnett on November 2, 1955) is an American saxophone player, composer, veteran of US military jazz bands and band leader. Born in Olathe, Kansas, Burnett's family moved relatively frequently during his early childhood due to his father being a member of the active US military service. His sibling family lived at places such as: France, Michigan, and Colorado prior to settling permanently back home in the Kansas City metro area. His brother, Richie Pratt (March 11, 1943 - February 12, 2015), who was also a musician (Lionel Hampton, Junior Mance, Aretha Franklin, New York Jazz Quartet, Broadway, films, studios ...), and the eldest sibling in his family continually served as a significant professional role model and mentor.
Burnett was first exposed to music at an early age through the piano by his mother (Violet Lorraine Burnett), and later studied vocal music through the youth choir program at his church under the direction of Nevada Rosbia. Burnett took to music intuitively and his introduction to saxophone and clarinet began through the instrumental music program at school. James R. Fuchs was his primary music teacher who also exposed him to some of the local and internationally recognized professional saxophone players like Charles Molina and Gary Foster who visited the school periodically during the early 1970s. Unable to afford college tuition, prior to graduation from high school in May 1974, Burnett auditioned for and was accepted to the music programs of both, the US Air Force and US Army bands. He has ultimately studied with numerous significant teachers and at the Armed Forces School of Music, Webster University, Columbia College (Missouri), Berklee College of Music, and American University.
US military bands:
Initially joining the U.S. military bands was intended to provide funding for college using the G.I. Bill education benefits that were available at that time. However, Burnett excelled musically and due to his background of being from a military family, he was successful in meeting the demands required of service as a uniformed musician as well. Burnett was able to maintain a balance between his responsibilities to the music and to the military. Thus, his skills continued to develop throughout his entire 20-year career toward his mastery of most all of the areas required of a person engaged in working within the music profession (performance, composition, arranging, teaching, management and leadership). He concluded his career at the rank of First Sergeant and in the position of Enlisted Bandleader, which was the highest position attainable for performing artists working in the military music system. He is a highly decorated military veteran, who has performed thousands of concerts and whose formal honors include: the Department of Defense Meritorious Service Medal and (two awards of) the Army Meritorious Service Medal, among many other awards, certificates and letters.
Notable highlights of his military music career include: a Staff and Faculty assignment at the Armed Forces School of Music; Leading Chief Petty Officer of the NATO Band at Naples, Italy where he served as NATO Ceremonial Band Conductor, Jazz Ensemble Director, and featured soloist during performance tours which also included several television broadcasts; accepted for assignment to the West Point Military Academy Band's Jazz Knights as a jazz alto saxophonist; accepted for assignment to the Armed Forces School of Music as a Jazz Ensemble Rehearsal Conductor; being featured at the age of 23 years, as jazz alto saxophone soloist with the Hof Symphony Orchestra (Germany) during two recorded Hauptkoncert (Main Concert) performances of the Rolf Liebermann 12-tone serial work, Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra (comp. 1954); along with jazz performances with his quartet outside of the military jobs. He was also selected to participate in a special "Staffing for Army Bands" video teleconference that resulted in the development and implementation of management systems that continue to positively and significantly impact the modern operational functionality of US Army bands.
Decorations and badges:
Defense Meritorious Service Medal,
Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster),
Army Commendation Medal (with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters),
Music Education and Artistic Motivations:
Burnett has noteworthy college-level teaching experience as a former director of the jazz ensemble program at Missouri University of Science and Technology, formerly University of Missouri-Rolla, where he was employed as an Adjunct Lecturer in Music for more than 10 years (academic years: 1984-1990 and 1996-2000) until returning home to the Kansas City area. He was bestowed as an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma chapters at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He was also one of the principal artist/educators featured at the First Annual Jazz Education Forum and Jazz Festival in 1998, which was held in Jefferson City, Missouri. At which, he performed with his own quartet, as well as with another stellar group composed of: Bill Cunliffe (piano), Kristin Korb (bass), and Yoron Israel, (drums). Burnett has taught several hundred students over the years. Some have gone on to study music at the college level, then engage professional careers in music as performers, recording artists or educators themselves.
Burnett's study of the Schillinger System of Musical Composition under O'tress L. Tandy from 1983-1985, has proven to be a cornerstone of his original artistic and compositional concepts. He is the 1995 5-Star Award of Merit winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs for his original composition and arrangement for big band titled, "Daedalus". Burnett has also stated that his main concern as a performer, who is also a legitimate composer, is to present his own original music parallel to the traditions of the generations before him. He states that approaching this goal requires that one become a teacher of sorts by developing one's own approach to the musical language - not merely to imitate the melodic and harmonic statements of the established masters as a less mature student might be satisfied to do.
Burnett's work around 2001, such as Time Stamps, is significant for a melding of his more mature style of writing with his ability to place emphasis on both the improvisational and composition structural aspects of jazz music. He achieves this by giving each instrumentalist the inherent responsibilities and enough freedom to create musical content over rich harmonic and melodic compositional bedrock. He continues to explore these and other concepts with his own ensembles.
Burnett is of a generation that brings much substance to American music because his is the first generation who grew up as adults with full Civil Rights and full access to the bounties of US society. He is one of the musicians of this generation who: have successfully served their country, have successfully raised families, are productive citizens, and continue to grow their gifts as an original artist. With over 150 original compositions, 30 of which are registered BMI Works, it is logical to assume that there will be much more music to investigate from Chris Burnett for many years to come. He has proven business experience, and has recorded a highly successful debut album titled, "Time Flies". Initially influenced by the work of saxophonists Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and the styling's of trumpeter, Miles Davis; Burnett has also performed and been influenced by many other artists and styles of music beyond the genre of jazz.
Burnett incorporates many elements from his classical studies on saxophone and clarinet, along with his knowledge as a trained composer and arranger of music, into the current improvisational and compositional language he presents to listeners. Burnett does not believe that music is limited in the way that most of the commercial marketing of it often presents to the majority of the world. He also believes that any person of his generation and age, (or younger,) can only "get so close" to the jazz music that was made before they were born without having a direct relationship with a person who was actually living during that particular musical era. His artistic motivations are dedicated to presenting jazz music from his generational perspective and context, within a paradigm of creativity as the focus. Thus, Burnett's own work is focused on contributing to the music of his African-American heritage and Midwest traditions in such a manner that it is approachable by most listeners, yet not so watered down to the point of having little remaining genuine artistic substance.
Recording career and online music distribution:
As an active BMI Writer Affiliate, his ensemble performances and studio recordings primarily feature his original compositions and his interpretive arrangements of select works by other composers. As a composer, Burnett is the 1995 5-Star Award of Merit Winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs for his original composition and arrangement for big band titled, Daedalus. Daedalus was initially recorded by the award-winning Engineer Center Jazz Ensemble and published on the highly acclaimed compact disc recording by the 399th US Army Band, titled "Essayons" - which was also the first-ever CD recording released in that particular military band's history.
A modern thinker and early explorer of the digital music landscape, Burnett garnered more than a half million music downloads and sold CDs to fans in 38 countries via MP3.com (1999-2003) before most musicians had figured out that there were other ways than major record label contracts and brick-and-mortar retail stores to reach listeners. He is a pioneer among professional musicians utilizing new media resources and was among the first to integrate 21st Century Technologies as a matter of course.
Burnett's debut CD titled, "Time Flies", was recorded with the last edition of his group named, "4-Jazz", which included: Jeff Stewart on piano, Elliot Kuykendall on acoustic and electric basses; and, Ken Baldwin and/or Bob Habib on drum set and percussion. Another unique aspect of "Time Flies" is that it features Burnett with Chicago-based jazz pianist, Benjamin Lewis (Founder, MIDI Jazz Network), on one of the earliest Internet musical production collaborations ever formally documented, published and released on a commercially distributed professional CD. With several new CD projects scheduled to be recorded and released, "Time Flies" stands as a bonafide successful commercial album (i.e., meaning that in addition to critical acclaim, "Time Flies" CD sales have recouped all production expenses). Now distributed worldwide on the Artists Recording Collective label brand, "Time Flies" was initially distributed via Internet channels and continues to garner the highest of positive musical reviews and commentary from both, professional music critics and listening fans alike.
Post-military career and Kansas City jazz scene:
Burnett opened a retail music store business in the rural Missouri town outside of Fort Leonard Wood after retiring from the Army Bands Career Program in 1996. However, the business did not remain viable and was closed in 2001. In February 2001, Burnett with his wife, Terri, and their dog, Coltrane, moved back home to his native Kansas City area and has been based out of the KC area since that time.
Burnett remains an active and in-demand performer, composer and educator of the highest order. After the diversity of activities required by service in military bands, his applied musical activities now primarily include concerts and master classes or adjudicating at jazz festivals. Burnett's post military bands career activities also include touring and he almost always performs in some context while visiting other geographical locations such as New York, Denver, Austin, Boston and Europe. Although he has led several groups over the years, his main group Chris Burnett Quartet (CbQ) began in 2001 and remains active. Burnett also remains active as a composer and arranger, working on personal projects, as well as, commissioned works.
BurnettMusic.com is not only his official artist website domain name, but also an organized sole proprietorship business entity that is owned and operated by Mr. Burnett. His developed technical knowledge, proven management abilities and tempered experience as a businessman, result in several significant professional associations of BurnettMusic.com with other established music businesses and arts organizations.
As a publisher and businessman, Mr. Burnett also gained valuable experience while serving as a staff writer/arranger and company manager for many noteworthy military band assignments. Shortly after arriving back home and getting settled in the Kansas City metro, he began utilizing his diverse skills and vast experience to constructively contribute to the KC scene. Burnett began his tenure as a member of the Kansas City jazz community by going to local jam sessions; and then, he volunteered his time and services to the non-profit entity, Alaadeen Enterprises, Inc., from 2002-2007 for free while performing a myriad of essential administrative duties, arranging music and also serving as a participating Board Member of that organization. His motivation was to contribute his professional skills while learning about the Kansas City music scene.
Mr. Burnett has been subsequently invited to become a part of the artsONE Artists Council. The Artists Council of artsONE is composed of well known and respected local Kansas City Jazz and Blues artists. In December 2007, Chris Burnett, along with New York-based artists, Erica Lindsay and Sumi Tonooka, co-founded Artists Recording Collective - an internationally recognized brand that serves as a dynamic and multi-dimensional platform to present the works and services of a select roster of artists-producers and boutique labels. Subsequently, Artists Recording Collective formally launched its first commercial CD recording release in early 2008 to critical acclaim and National Radio Chart success. Based upon his innovative approach to promotion and marketing, Burnett was contacted by telephone and the Artists Recording Collective was featured in a Down Beat magazine article by writer, Yoshi Kato. This unsolicited piece launched Artists Recording Collective onto the national and international music scene and focused on the new music industry paradigm - specifically, how social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace have factored into the distribution of music.
Mr. Burnett was elected to the Board of Directors of the historic Mutual Musicians Foundation in 2009. And, in 2008 he was asked to serve as a member of the Advisory Council for Kansas City Youth Jazz, which is composed of musicians, business and community members who contribute regularly to various activities crucial to the operation of the organization. These include programming, concert logistics, fundraising, outreach and many, many others.
In August 2011, Mr. Burnett accepted the Marketing and Communications Manager position with the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. He remains an active performer, composer, jazz educator and serves as the Music Chairman for the Live at the Hollywood Theater concert series in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Mr. Burnett's Professional Memberships include: American Federation of Musicians (Kansas City Local 34-627), The Recording Academy (GRAMMY), and the US Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP).
Chris Burnett performs exclusively on Henri Selmer Paris Saxophones.
Chris Burnett is an official Conn-Selmer Performing Artist and Clinician.
Chris Burnett endorses Lomax Classic jazz mouthpieces.
-Selmer Paris Series III Eb Alto Saxophone with Series III Alto Gold Brass Neck,
-Emerson Emerson Model 88B C Flute Inline G, B Foot with Symphony Headjoint,
-Leblanc 1189S Bb Clarinet with Scott Barrell and Selmer 10G Bb Clarinet Bell,
-Buffet Crampon R-13 Bb Clarinet
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license