Tag Archives: Larry McKenna with strings


There’s no one like Larry McKenna on the planet today.

Others knew about the legendary Philadelphia tenor saxophonist before I did, but I fell under his spell when I heard him play five years ago. In person, he is understated: soft-spoken, with a wry way of looking at the scene, but once he picks up the horn, Larry is a master of passionate cool: he doesn’t run scales or emote, but he sings through his tenor in the most memorable ways. Each melody shows he has something to tell us, simple, deep, and lasting. He’s been working at his craft for six decades, and, as a mature artist, he knows how to let the music breathe and he never shouts at us.

Larry is celebrating and being celebrated in two ways this spring.

One is the release (download and a limited edition CD) of his session with strings, LARRY McKENNA: WORLD ON A STRING, on BCM+D Records. The collective personnel is Larry, tenor saxophone and arrangements; Silas Irvine, piano; Joe Plowman, string bass; Dan Monaghan, drums; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone, arrangements; Meghan Woodard, oboe, English horn; Alberta Douglas, violin; Justin Yoder, Nellie Smith, Chen Chen, cello; Gloria Galante, harp.

BCM+D Records are a production of the Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University, 1715 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122.

Here’s a sample, the ethereal DREAMSVILLE:

The other songs are I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING / BUT BEAUTIFUL / I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA / EMILY / STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY / SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT / Larry’s own SAMBA DE ELSE / WHAT IS THERE TO SAY? It can be downloaded from the usual sources: Apple Music, Amazon, and more.

It’s extraordinary music. I saw this ensemble at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live on October 12, 2021. Larry has called it a “career event.” For me and others in the audience, it was a life event.

The second event is a CD release concert on April 5 at 7 PM, at Spring Mill Ballroom, 1210 East Hector Street, Conshohocken, PA 19428.

Some details:

The most beautiful songs featuring Philadelphia’s most beautiful sound-Larry McKenna’s latest CD World On A String immerses the veteran saxophonist in a lush world of strings.

After a sold-out performance at World Cafe in the fall of 2021, a community of artists and patrons led by drummer Dan Monaghan were determined to document this extraordinary music on record.

Please join us for a special live performance of this beautiful music to celebrate Larry and this great accomplishment. Unfortunately due to recent health issues, Larry is unable to perform at this time. Larry’s solos will be performed by several special guest soloists who are long-time musical associates and friends. Featuring:

SPECIAL GUEST SOLOISTS: Terell Stafford, Danny Tobias, trumpet. Vince Lardear, alto saxophone. Joe McDonough, trombone.

THE ORCHESTRA: Silas Irvine, piano; Joe Plowman, bass; Dan Monaghan, drums; Meghan Woodard, oboe and English horn; Alberta Douglas, violin; Chen Chen, Nellie Smith, Gozde Tiknaz, cello.

Conducted by Jack Saint Clair; Arrangements by Larry McKenna and Jack Saint Clair.

General Admission $30 advance/$35 at the door (cash and Venmo only)
Student Admission $20 advance/$25 at the door (cash and Venmo only) Show ID at door.
Doors open at 7:00 pm. Concert begins at 7:30 pm
Cash bar. No food will be served.
Offstreet parking available in venue’s lot

CDs will be available for purchase. Supply is limited, email jacksaintclairorchestra@gmail.com to reserve your copy.

The Eventrbrite link to purchase tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/world-on-a-string-larry-mckenna-with-strings-tickets-536539523157

Larry and his music are rare pleasures — like nothing else I can think of beyond Ben or Bird with strings, or Stan Getz performing FOCUS. At times, listening to him play, I forget that this is the sound of a man with an elaborate metal tube he’s holding, and just hear Song. When I’d heard the CD, I told him that I thought of Sinatra, and he happily told me that this was the best compliment I could have offered.

So treat yourself to some unadulterated Song as created by a master of that elusive art, surrounded by people who love it just as much: the CD, the concert, both.

May your happiness increase!

“YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF YOUR CHAIR SOMETIME”: LARRY McKENNA with STRINGS (World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, October 12, 2021)

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that October 12 has not come yet, so before someone writes in to explain my error, I am announcing an event that will take place in slightly more than two weeks from this evening. And it concerns this man, seen in the photograph above, the wondrous tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna. Here’s what he sounds like:

Now, imagine that sound backed by a different (but equally splendid) jazz rhythm section, and a string ensemble of three cellos, one violin, one English horn doubling oboe, one flute, arrangements by Larry and by Jack Saint Clair, the latter of whom will also be conducting.

Yes, you don’t need to imagine, but you do need to attend the event in real time as it is taking place at World Cafe Live, 8:30 to 10:30 PM, Tuesday, October 12, 2021. The WCL is located at 3025 Walnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104 — not far from the 30th Street station. (I’ve been there: it was a very welcoming place.)

The price is $35.00 per ticket, and it is general admission: you can buy tickets and read about Covid-19 protocols here. Yes, you will have to show proof of vaccination; yes, you will be expected to wear your mask except when eating or drinking.

Yes, I am attending. Yes, I will bring my video camera, but even I — who prides himself on the possibilities of video-recording — will say that a video is not the same as being there in person. And, no (the first no!) the event is not being streamed, nor is it a seven-night engagement, and the WCL is not the size of Carnegie Hall, so, to quote the oracle Patrick O’Leary, “You snooze, you lose.”

And: before the virus changed the landscape, there were always a thousand reasons to stay home, and we know them well. Given the virus, there are more reasons. But: to me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Perhaps it is to you also. And, in case you want to know the source of the aphorism, “You have to get out of your chair sometime,” c’est moi. I hope to see you there — for beauty’s sake.

May your happiness increase!