The extraordinary pianist Dave McKenna, who had been ill and unable to play for some time, died peacefully on October 18. McKenna’s playing seemed to synthesize all the jazz piano that had come before him: the romping left-hand, both violent and precise, that summoned up the great stride players and the Boogie Woogie Trio at once — balanced against ricocheting treble lines that swerved and darted. A McKenna solo in high gear (I think of his Chiaroscuro “C Jam Blues”) was a swinging juggernaut, but the McKenna locomotive was so smooth that the glasses of water in the dining room never sloshed. He was a remarkable player who dazzled Oscar Peterson, and someone who had an immense affectionate recall for the best American popular songs, which he strung together in great thematic melodies (the Street medley, the Rain medley). The Chiaroscuro, Shiah, Concord, and JUMP recordings he left behind — mostly solo, but some with Dick Johnson, Scott Hamilton, Ruby Braff, and Zoot Sims (not bad company) are imperishable. And what more can anyone say about Dave except to recall that he was Bobby Hackett’s favorite pianist.
News also comes of a memorial service — with music, of course — celebrating the life of guitarist Wayne Wright. Produced and organized by Chris Ambadjes of the American Guitar Museum, the concert will be held on Tuesday, November 11, 7:30-9:30 P.M, at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, New York. Center for Performing Arts – Main Stage. _