Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Howard Burns attended Baltimore City public schools and in high school played in Chocolate Rain, a well-known band operating in Baltimore, Washington, DC, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A high-energy group with an original sound, Chocolate Rain produced a record in the 1970, and was picked to open shows for Earth Wind and Fire, Ohio Players, Weather Report, Parliament, The Isley Brothers and the Blackbyrds.
Burns attended Howard University, earning a Bachelor of Music degree, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium, where he earned his master’s degree. A member of the Blackbyrds and the Midnight Movers, he also performed with Clark Terry, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Joe Wilder, Butch Ballard, Buddy Catlett, Benny Powell, Hank Jones, John Handy, Curtis Fuller, Charles Davis, Lou Donaldson, The Four Tops, and The Temptations. The Howard Burns Quartet has been together for 20 years. He has appeared on five compact discs featuring the well-known jazz percussionist Kevin Yost.