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Dave McKenna

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One of the top swing-based pianists of the past 25 years, Dave McKenna's hard-driving basslines give momentum to uptempo pieces, and his vast knowledge of superior songs from the 1930s has resulted in many rewarding albums of traditional but fresh music. Although talented from the start, McKenna did not achieve that much recognition until he was already in his forties. He joined the Musicians' Union when he was 15 and picked up early experience playing with Boots Mussulli (1947), Charlie Ventura (1949), and Woody Herman's Orchestra (1950-1951). After two years in the military, McKenna had a second stint with Ventura (1953-1954) and then worked with a variety of top swing and Dixieland players including Gene Krupa, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, and Bob Wilber (in the late '70s), and was a soloist at piano bars in Massachusetts. McKenna had recorded for ABC-Paramount (1956), Epic (1958), Bethlehem (a two-piano date shared with Hall Overton in 1960), and Realm (1963), but in 1973, McKenna's talents finally began to be more fully documented. He led sets for Halycon, Shiah, Famous Door, Inner City (with vocalist Teddi King), and four for Chiaroscuro. And then in 1979 with No Bass Hit (a trio date with Scott Hamilton and Jake Hanna), McKenna debuted with Concord, finding his home. He has made many sessions for Concord ever since, some as a sideman or with small groups, but the best ones being unaccompanied recitals. In the mid-'90s Dave McKenna was at the top of his field. ~ Scott Yanow

Top Songs


30 May 1930 in Woonsocket, RI

Years Active:

'40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s


Influenced by this Artist