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Exploring the Music of Jazz pianist Kenny Drew, Sr. on his birthday! (August 28, 1928 – August 4, 1993)

When I started a while back writing and listening to more jazz, one of the artists whose name I would see writtenKenny Drew about, that I didn’t know anything about was pianist Kenny Drew. So today, August 28th, which is the 86th anniversary of Kenny’s  birth in New York City, I thought it was a good day to start exploring.  In his biography at ALLMusic Scott Yanov writes that Kenny was a

“talented bop-based pianist (whose son has been one of the brightest pianists of the 1990s), Kenny Drew was somewhat underrated due to his decision to permanently move to Copenhagen in 1964.”

Aha, there;s the reason that I never really heard that much about this very gifted pianist.  Seems that through the years Kenny became a major star in Europe and Japan, while his music was neglected at home. He even has a street named after him in his adopted home of  Copenhagen, “Kenny Drews Vej” (Eng., Kenny Drew Street) is located in southern Copenhagen. Some background from Wikipedia:

Drew was born in New York City in 1928 and received piano lessons from the age of five.[1] Drew’s first recording, in 1950, was with Howard McGhee, and over the next two years he worked in bands led by Buddy DeFranco, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker, among others.[1] After a brief period with his own trio in California, Drew returned to New York, playing with Dinah Washington, Johnny Griffin, Buddy Rich, and several others over the following few years.[1] He led many recording sessions throughout the ’50s, and in 1957 appeared on John Coltrane’s album Blue Train.

After reading the following, I think maybe he moved to Paris in 1961 (he didn’t  move to Copenhagen until 3 years later) just to rest… because according to his biography at All About Jazz…in 1960

…he made his own “Undercurrent” as well as Jackie McLean’s “Bluesnik,” and “Jackie’s Bag,” Kenny Dorham’s “Whistle Stop,” Dexter Godon’s “Dexter Calling,” Grant Green’s “Sunday Mornin’” and a couple of Tina Brooks dates all within the space of a year. Read more

This morning I listened to his first recording as a leader, 1956’s release The Kenny Drew Trio. Drew’s mates in the kenny drew triotrio are Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Jo Jones on drums (can you say the rhythm section of the Miles Davis Quintet).  The album was released on the Riverside label and produced by the great Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer. Nat Hentoff of Downbeat wrote this about the album….

A significant stage in his development and a very enjoyable CD (Four Stars)

Scott Yanow at AllMusic writes:

Kenny Drew, with the assistance of bassist Paul Chambers (whose bowed solos are always welcome) and drummer Philly Joe Jones, explores six standards and two of his originals. Although Drew would have to move to Europe in the early ’60s in order to get the recognition he deserved, it is obvious (in hindsight) from this enjoyable date that he was already a major improviser. Read More

As I was listening to the album this morning, while I was working on the computer I liked what I was hearing and several times I stopped to see what the name of the song was, one time it was “Weird-o” and another it was “It’s Only a Paper Moon”. Overall, it seems that Mr. Drew’s music along with that of his son Kenny Drew, Jr, who recently passed away at the age of 56, needs to be explored more fully!!

Here’s the Kenny Drew Trio performing “St. Thomas” live at The Brewhouse Jazz in 1992. Kenny’s trio mates on this song are Neils Henning Orsted Pedersen on double bass and
Alvin Queen on drums. Ok, who is that Alvin Queen!! See ya’ I’m off to Spotify to find out!! Watch for more later!!