Dave McKenna is simply one of the legends of the jazz piano. He, of course, would probably disagree. I don't know if I qualify as a bona-fide jazz guy, he says. I play saloon piano. I like to stay close to the melody. His humility and laid-back personal style seem a contrast to the vibrant vitality of his masterful piano style. His range is truly extraordinary. One minute he is caressing a lovely ballad, the next he is thundering and rumbling through a high-powered rendition of I Found a New Baby.
Dave was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, into a musical family. His father William McKenna, a postman, played the drums part-time, and two sisters are singers. His mother, Catherine Reilly McKenna, was Dave's first piano teacher. In additions to being a good piano player, she was a fine violinist as a young woman. He also took lessons from Preston Sandy Sandiford in Boston, a fine piano teacher Dave liked very much. He explains that he developed his trademark left-handed bass style because I wanted to hear something like what I heard on the records.
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What other pianists choose to say in a roar, McKenna expresses at something just above a whisper. And while other virtuosos revel in the brilliance of their technique, McKenna very nearly takes pains to disguise his. He is Chopin in a world that reveres Liszt, Mozart in an age that worships Mahler. Howard Reich - Chicago Tribune Arts Critic
McKenna excels in his art. What is it that makes Dave so unique? His uncanny sense of time? His ability to sound like the entire Basie band? His penchant for resurrecting obscure but lovely ballads that deserve to be heard again? Or maybe it's the famous McKenna medleys that can go on for entire set without repetition