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Larry McKenna

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Larry McKenna is a perfect example of a jazz musician who isn't well known nationally but is considered a master of his instrument in his home town. The majority of jazz lovers in New York or Boston may not be familiar with him, but mention McKenna's name to many jazzmen in Philadelphia, and they'll tell you that, along with Bootsie Barnes and Jimmy Oliver, he's one of the city's best tenor sax players. After joining a high school jazz band at 14 and playing small gigs around Philly as a young adult, McKenna got his first significant break when, in 1959, he spent six months on the road as a member of Woody Herman's Big Band. McKenna was with George Young in 1962 and Al Raymond in 1970, and it was in the early 1970s that he started teaching at Temple University, West Chester University and Philadelphia Community College. Over the years, the saxman recorded with Herman, Buddy DeFranco and Dr. Bruce Klauber as a sideman and played countless local gigs as a leader, but he didn't record a CD of his own until 1997, when he provided My Shining Hour: Larry McKenna Plays Harold Arlen for the tiny, Pittsburgh-based Alanna Records. The late 1990s found McKenna continuing to teach at the above-mentioned colleges while playing around Philly regularly. ~ Alex Henderson

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Years Active:

'90s, '00s