Remembering Jazz Pianist Dave McKenna

Pianist Dave McKenna i i

Dave McKenna: Jazz-studies professor Dan Morgenstern says his singular artistry "covers the whole vocabulary of piano, from stride to bop." Concord Music Group hide caption

itoggle caption Concord Music Group
Pianist Dave McKenna

Dave McKenna: Jazz-studies professor Dan Morgenstern says his singular artistry "covers the whole vocabulary of piano, from stride to bop."

Concord Music Group

Exclusive Audio

Unreleased 1965 demo tracks featuring Dave McKenna on piano, with his sister Jean McKenna on vocals:

From 'Full Circle'

Jean McKenna O'Donnell sings standards on her new album:

Dave McKenna, a jazz pianist famous for his solo performances, died in late October at the age of 78.

The New Yorker's late jazz critic Whitney Balliet described McKenna as "the hardest-swinging jazz pianist of all time" — and he was a special favorite here at Fresh Air, dating back to the program's early life as a local Philadelphia broadcast.

Fresh Air's directors have regularly featured McKenna's recorded work between segments on the program, and host Terry Gross more than once has showcased his live performances on the air.

On this Thanksgiving Day, Fresh Air honors the memory of Dave McKenna with a rebroadcast of a 1988 performance and interview he gave here in our studios. On the set list:

"By Myself"

"Yours Is My Heart Alone"

"Sweet Lorraine"

"C-Jam Blues"

"Thanks For the Memory"

Later in the show: Very few people have the opportunity to grow up with someone so talented and hear him develop as an artist, so we'll also be talking with Dave's younger sister Jean McKenna O'Donnell, who lives in Rhode Island, in the home she grew up in with Dave, two other siblings, and their parents.

She's a retired schoolteacher, and a singer — and she has just released her first CD, a disc of standards called Full Circle. You can hear two complete tracks from the album by clicking on the links at left.

Plus, two vintage, unreleased demo tracks that Jean recorded in 1965, with Dave on piano: "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and "I'm Beginning to See the Light."

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