Dave McKenna

A fan site created to honor one of the world's greatest jazz pianists.

More Sad News:

Frankie McKenna, Steve and Doug's mother, passed away on January 28, 2009 in Wilmington, NC. We want to express our deepest condolences to Steve, Doug, and their familiy at this difficult time.

Videos of Dave Performing Live:

Check out these wonderful videos on YouTube!

From Doug McKenna:
Doug is an actor performing with a local theater group near his home on the Cape.

From Steve McKenna:

Here is a link to Blues Up, a reissue of two of dad's first solo albums that, as far as I know, have never before been issued on CD. I have included this particular link because of the information it provides but you can order it from Amazon.com.

From a new review of Blues Up by Michael G. Nastos on Allmusic:

"In case you haven't heard, Dave McKenna is one of the most remarkable jazz pianists in the history of the music, further evidenced by this wonderful solo recording, taken from the original 1955 ABC-Paramount LP Solo Piano and the 1963 Realm release Lullabies in Jazz. McKenna's expertise in mixing the stride style into any jazz standard cannot be more fully demonstrated."
Read the entire review here.

From Dave's sister Jean McKenna O'Donnell:

My new CD Full CIrcle is now available! I sing 14 jazz standards with a superb four-piece group -- Mike Renzi, Dick Johnson, Marshall Wood and guitarist Jon Wheatley. It's an exciting time for me but it is something I've wanted to do for a long time -- and to work with that group was beyond my wildest dreams. Please visit my CD page for details and ordering information.

New CDs!

JUMP records has just released a new solo album of Dave, from 1981. JUMP is Joe Boughton, of the Allegheny Jazz Society in Meadville PA. Joe has long been a champion of Dave's and had Dave as a solo artist
at Meadville for three-day concerts in the early nineties.

Please visit the Rare Recordings page for more information!

Dave McKenna: May 30, 1930 - October 18, 2008

Tributes to Dave

The family of internationally celebrated pianist Dave McKenna would like to thank all of the friends and fans who gathered on Sunday afternoon, December 7 in the pianist’s hometown of Woonsocket (RI) to celebrate the life and musical genius of the Concord Recording artist, as well as the wonderful musicians who performed in his honor.

It is estimated that over 500 people attended this very special and loving tribute to Dave.


About Dave

Dave McKenna was simply one of the legends of the jazz piano. He, of course, would probably have disagreed. "I don't know if I qualify as a bona-fide jazz guy," he said. "I play saloon piano. I like to stay close to the melody." His humility and laid-back personal style seemed 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."

Dave began his career with Boots Mussulli Band, then left home to play with the Charlie Ventura band, followed by a stint with Woody Herman. After two years in the army, he returned to Charlie Ventura's band, then worked with Gene Krupa, Stan Getz, and Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. He often worked with Bobby Hackett, including some gigs at Eddie Condon's in Manhattan, playing what Hackett called "Whiskeyland Jazz." Among Dave's biggest influences was Nat King Cole, who remains one of his favorites to this day.

While working with Bobby Hackett, Dave discovered the pleasures of Cape Cod. He and his wife Frankie moved to the Cape in 1966 with their sons Stephen and Douglas. The move changed his career as well as his address - he worked less frequently with bands and more often as a solo pianist, but he still spent a great deal of time on the road.

Dave's musical magic found a wider audience through recordings, from his first solo recording on ABC records in 1955 to his wonderful work in the 70s for Chiaroscuro Records and then for Concord Jazz. In the 1980s, Dave's many fans could enjoy his magnificent medleys 6 nights a week at the Plaza Bar at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, where he was pianist-in-residence.

Dave has traveled all over the world to play festivals, cruises and concerts, and Boston-area fans always considered it a rare treat when he did perform close to home, either solo or with noted jazz artists including Dick Johnson, Gray Sargent, Marshall Wood, and Donna Byrne. Although he was no longer performing the last few years, he always appreciated the support and kind words he has received over the years from his many fans all over the world. Those of us who had the privilege to know him, whether personally or through his music, will miss him terribly.

This site was created by Anita and RIck Pollak from Anita's @Home Web Site Design. If you have any comments or questions on this Web site, please send e-mail to dave@aahome.com .