Dave McKenna Biography

30 May 1930, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, USA. By his late teens, McKenna was active in and around Boston, playing piano with Boots Mussulli’s band. In 1949, he joined Charlie Ventura, then worked with Woody Herman until drafted during the Korean War. From 1953 until well into the 60s he was mostly engaged in small group work, playing with Ventura again and with several major artists, including Gene Krupa, Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. From the late 60s until the end of the 70s, he played long residencies at bars and restaurants in the Boston and Cape Cod areas of Massachusetts. His return to the national and international scene happened on several fronts, with record dates, tours and festival appearances with Bob Wilber, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vaché Jnr and many other musicians associated with Concord Records. An exceptionally accomplished pianist whether playing solo, as accompanist or in an ensemble role, McKenna’s range is wide - although he is clearly happiest playing ballads to which he brings a delightfully melodic touch. Chuck Berg, writing in JazzTimes, accurately stated: ‘If Bach had played jazz, he just might have sounded like Dave McKenna’, meaning that he makes every single note and space count.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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