Herman Burney


Herman Burney, “has the complete package … he is extremely talented, he possesses a reverence for the music, technical ability, and (to top it off) he is a genuinely fine person. The world needs his music and I am happy to count him among my friends” writes John Clayton.

Born in Washington, DC, Herman was raised in the arts-nurturing state of North Carolina, specifically Winston-Salem. Herman grew up in Church listening to Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and James Cleveland; during these years, he played clarinet, drums, and tuba. “Music has always been an integral part of my life. Both my parents sing in their church choir, and my father sings bass in an all-male a Capella group.” Herman’s next major influences were Soul, R&B, and hard-core funk during high school; he played the electric bass during that time. “As a teenager, my friends and I started our own bands; we played in the garage, basement, or any place that we could. I even snuck out of the house at night to hear groups like Ramsey Lewis, Cameo, Parliament/Funkadelic, the Brother’s Johnson, and Graham Central Station!”

Herman was initiated into “Jazz” by Bill Bright in Winston-Salem, whose musical legacy lives through the many people he helped during his physical life here on earth. “Bill Bright personally took me under his wing, made me practice, allowed me (with my incredibly sad bass playing) to join the Bill Bright Quintet, gave me my first gigs on acoustic bass, taught me about chord changes, and loaned me Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk albums to check out so we could play it together!! Make no mistake … Bill Bright single-handedly started me on my Jazz journey … I’m still figuring out what he showed me!”

Then in 1987, after a chance meeting with George Duvivier, Herman finally settled on his beloved double bass. “Until then, I had never heard music, especially on a double bass, that required so much honesty and dedication. George showed me that there is no room for pretense in American Classical music (commonly called “Jazz”); if you don’t give yourself completely, your music will show it and your audience will know it.”

A true student and fan of jazz music, Herman often gives his time and effort to the support of future jazz musicians. “Milt Hinton, John Clayton, Bob Cranshaw, Ray Brown, Victor Gaskin, John Heard, Keter Betts, Freddy Cole, George Duvivier, Percy Heath, and Rufus Reid have shared so much with me that it is incumbent upon me to pass it along to others … I just can’t keep this information to myself.” To this end, and when his schedule permits, Herman enjoys working at music camps, presenting workshops, teaching private students, and educating audiences. “Jazz audiences are generally well informed people who MUST be considered at all times; playing in Freddy Cole’s band for over 4yrs really taught me this lesson. Cole taught me to assemble the musical presentation based on audience demographics, NOT necessarily what I want to play. Therefore, as a musician, I am responsible for learning as much music as possible in order to choose songs carefully that positively impact an audience.”