Over the years, Mick Burns wrote dozens of reviews and articles for specialist jazz publications in the UK. He also wrote liner notes for jazz CDs and was the author of three books.

WWNO Interview
Listen to Mick talking to Fred Kasten about music and writing.
Broadcast in New Orleans on March 7th 2006, on radio station WWNO.


The Great Olympia Band

The story of this legendary aggregation, told in the words of the musicians themselves. Published by Jazzology Press in 2001.

“Mick Burns' research is painstakingly accurate… It is an enthralling read through 40 years of the band's existence.” Just Jazz Magazine

“Reads like an absorbing novel.” Jazz Gazette (internet publication)

“…author Burns clearly knows his stuff, and a combination of… dedicated passion… accurate research, finally… do the subject justice.” Amazon.com

“…nothing supersedes jazz musicians themselves talking about their art and craft… they make us aware of the heart and soul of jazz residing in New Orleans … a very emotionally moving experience.” New Orleans Music Magazine

Keeping the Beat on the Street:
The New Orleans Brass Band Renaissance

All about the renewed passion and pageantry which galvanised the revival in New Orleans street music. Again, the musicians themselves tell you how it happened. Published by Louisiana State University Press in 2006.

"...these stories weave a loose history of the music and the social club scene that has traditionally sustained it... the book was completed before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina... making this retrospective as poignant as it is informative," Publisher's Weekly (US)

"These oral histories provide a valuable contribution to New Orleans musical history... what shines through the musicians' words is love of craft, love of culture." Susan Larson, Times Picayune (US)

"... it is a superbly written and laid out publication, a labour of love, composed with humility and feeling for its subject..." Emile Martyn, New Orleans Music Magazine (UK)

"Mick Burns... shows a seasoned knowledge of the musical terrain... this is a wise book with great heart... he sketches a picture of a world that was, leaving us to wonder what will be." Jason Berry, New Orleans magazine (US)

"... convincingly demonstrates the evolution of the music... an appealing personal view of a neglected jazz subgenre, which one hopes will survive..." Dave Szatmary, Library Journal (US)

Walking With Legends - Barry Martyn's New Orleans Jazz Odyssey

A third book is to be published by LSU Press in Fall 2007.

Drummer, record producer, bandleader, jazz researcher, and cigar-chomping raconteur Barry Martyn is a New Orleans original who happens to have been born in England . This might seem implausible, but it makes perfect sense to members of the New Orleans traditional jazz community, who view themselves as an extended family based on merit as much as nativity. One earns a place through a combination of musical talent, good works, and attitude, fuelled by a desire to “be in that number.” Martyn found his way to New Orleans because he knew in his heart that he belonged there. In responding to the music of sage practitioners such as the clarinetist George Lewis, he arrived with a sense of purpose, determined not only to learn from his musical heroes but also to really get to know them.

Barry landed well and did what was required of him. He remains one of the busiest musicians on the New Orleans scene and can reflect upon more than half a century of musical activity. His role as a standard-bearer for the New Orleans jazz drumming tradition, honoring the legacies of the African-American musicians who taught and inspired him, affirms our appreciation that New Orleans drummers are craftsmen. It's always about who can play for the band and make it sound good. Although this book is about a “life in jazz,” one might say that the accent falls mainly on life because the narrative is primarily about the human relationships that make the music possible.

Martyn's homespun mode of expression and discourse is captivating, and the punchlines punctuating the exploits of the musicians who were his mentors enliven the telling of the tale tremendously. Barry has striven not to make this book too much about himself, and the care taken to recount the life stories of his associates renders the book especially meaningful. Intrinsic to the story is a continual clash of cultures—the avid pupil from the British Isles learning lessons of music (and life) from these elderly strangers, who take him under their wings partly out of self-interest and partly out of curiosity. Together, they find a way to connect through music, even if the road gets a little bumpy at times. This is a very moving story, full of anecdotal richness and maybe even a little didacticism (especially on racial injustice), pounding out ironies like drum strokes. It's an irresistible beat.

Mick Burns's masterful shaping of the text derives from decades of friendship with Barry Martyn, as well as an innate ability as a writer. It is a style that has been described as “gruff and crisp, without being over-articulate,” a fitting complement to Martyn's modus operandi. Burns is also a musician in his own right, a trombonist, trumpeter, and tuba player with an abiding love for New Orleans music. He knows how to lace his annotations with a sly humor and what it takes to pace a narrative with judicious editing, as though he were constructing an extended solo on the bandstand. Quite frankly, he was the only man for the job. It's a collaboration that opens up a world few understood, let alone witnessed from the inside. You may not learn how to play drums in a jazz band by reading this book, but you'll definitely come away with an understanding of how New Orleans music can bring people of diverse backgrounds together.

Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Curator
Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University



© 2006 Abela Productions Ltd