Category: Mckenna Dave

For Dr. Billy Taylor’s 93rd Birthday Anniversary (1921-2010), An Uncut Blindfold Test from 2005

billyTaylorYesterday would have been Dr. Billy Taylor‘s 93rd birthday. Ted Panken posted an uncut blindfold test he did with the great pianist and educator for Downbeat in 2005. Some really great insights. From the interview, here is Taylor discussing fellow pianist Dave McKenna:

He used to live in the Poconos, and did a lot of stuff for Concord Records… Dave McKenna. I love his playing. He does this better than anybody I know. Those are some interesting lines he’s playing, man. They’re fascinating. Now, that’s a left hand! One of the things I pride myself in is what I do with the left hand, because it’s what I grew up with and I like to use it. But I love the way he used it, because that’s very personal. I remember years ago, when I first met Dave, I did a radio piece on him, and I was pointing out the fact that this was the most unique left hand I’d heard since Fats Waller. It was so personal and the way he did it was so effective as a contemporary way of doing basslines.

Click here to read For Dr. Billy Taylor’s 93rd Birthday Anniversary (1921-2010), An Uncut Blindfold Test from 2005

—Peter Blasevick

Dave McKenna with Ted Panken in 1999

daveMckennaHere is a cool interview with the great pianist Dave Mckenna. As critic Robert Doerschuk described his unique style as follows in the liner notes to McKenna’s Easy Street, “The best I can describe it, Dave McKenna plays like he has three hands.  Where most pianists tend to devote their left hand entirely to chords or bass lines, using the right exclusively for melodies, McKenna seems to split each hand in half.  The bottom two fingers of his left hand dance through bass lines Ray Brown would be happy to conceive, the top two fingers on the right hand explore variations on the theme of the tune, both thumbs and second fingers play chords in between, and the middle fingers jump in wherever they’re most needed.”

From the interview:

TP:    I assume you were listening to jazz pianists and digging them.

McKENNA:  No, not so much.  First of all, I liked songs, and I think I had a very brief time with liking the cowboy singers, Gene Autry and people like that.  Then I heard a Bing Crosby record.  I liked him okay, but he did a couple of things with a Dixieland band, either Bob Crosby or John Scott Trotter, and I liked that. Around that time, I got interested in Harry James’ band, and then Benny Goodman’s band — and I was hooked from then on.  I used to try to play like Benny rather than Teddy, although I had the utmost respect for Teddy.  (Nat Cole has been my favorite piano player for years; I loved his trio when I heard it. ) But most of that time I listened more to horn players.  Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw.  Also  Count Basie’s band, but I didn’t even know who those guys were at first, like Lester and Count himself. I love Basie.  Duke Ellington was an early favorite, too.  And later on, Bobby Hackett was one of my favorites.  By that time I was listening to Bird and Diz, too.  So I always listened to horn players more than piano players.

Click here to read Dave McKenna with Ted Panken in 1999