Burno was indeed the first bassist I played with to really play lines using extensions of the harmony in a very sophisticated way. The first time we worked together was around the same period (early 90's) with a band trumpeter Kenny Rampton had put together. It was a quintet, and it featured Rampton's original music(Kenny Rampton is another highly underrated musician and composer.) I remember it took me a minute to understand what Burno was doing, because he wouldn't play the roots on the downbeat of each measure. Once I figured it out, the concept was really intriguing to me. I realized later that you can hear this approach from players like Paul Chambers and Ron Carter and many others. I always felt that Burno played great walking lines, great time, and also great solos, which were also harmonically advanced. Burno also seemed to have almost photographic memory, as well as perfect pitch, and also it seemed impossible to stump him when it came to calling standards.
I played with Burno quite a bit in the 90's. When I luckily stumbled into getting the opportunity to record my first CD for Steeplechase in the Fall of 1995, I called Burno and Ralph Peterson on drums.
The CD is called "Activism", and for a trio that hadn't rehearse and for an extremely green 25-year old me, it's really not bad.
I have to admit, I was oftentimes musically intimidated by Mr. Burno; when you spend time with someone who is very knowledgeable but also opinionated, you can begin to wonder what they think of you! However, Burno was very supportive, and I even subbed in his band at Small's a few times. Furthermore, we did a European tour together during a time when I was experiencing some personal turmoil; Burno was my support through the entire tour. I don't think I would have made it without his empathy. ( I also remember he played an Ampeg bass on that tour; also, I remember how every time drummer Howard Curtis would play some great licks, Burno would give me a look as if to say, "Man, that was killing!")
I hadn't gotten to play with Burno much in recent years. I had heard that he was having kidney problems. Then I saw him in New York at a rehearsal studio, and we had a brief conversation; the kind of "two busy musicians passing like ships in the night" kind of conversation. He mentioned that he had heard my CD called "Blood Pressure" and was impressed. I was really touched by the compliment. Since I was just starting to develop the jazztruth blog, I thought that Burno would make a great interview; indeed, he is the kind of musician I'm truly interested in- ones who are amazingly talented and virtuous and yet for some reason stay off the radar for years. I'm really happy I was able to get this interview for my blog; Burno had a LOT to say on many subjects, so I broke it into Part I and Part II, respectively. It's really quite deep and Burno speaks with absolute candor, to say the least.
The news of Dwayne Burno's sudden death on December 28th has sent shockwaves throughout the Jazz community. Dwayne was way too young to pass like this. It's sad to know that you'll never get to speak with or play music with someone ever again. My heart goes out to his wife and son. I'm particularly saddened and frustrated with the fact that Burno apparently stockpiled original music and never recorded a CD as a leader. I'm not really sure why at least a small label, if not a larger one, would not have ever approached him, or why they never asked him to do something? It can't be because he never met anyone in the Jazz recording industry? I mean, he played with Betty Carter, Roy Haynes, Donald Harrison, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, and so many more. I suppose that's what makes the video that accompanies the site where you can donate to Burno's family all the more totally heartbreaking; Dwayne was finally going to do a recording, and was starting a Kickstarter campaign.