Dave McKenna is a bit of an unknown to many jazz listeners, but he is one of the most talented pianists I have ever heard. Although he was just as skilled as many of the more well-known jazz artists, he had little interest in the traveling lifestyle of these musicians and preferred to play in small venues near his home in Massachusetts over touring and playing to large audiences. My old jazz teacher always said that he while he was at Berklee he would see McKenna in a tiny bar down the street every single week. His style is classic, yet very much his own - he became famous for his ability to play ‘three-handed swing” and rarely left this niche in his playing. It’s really amazing to hear; his left hand plays solid walking bass lines, his right hand solos like crazy, and somehow there’s a stride/comping thing going on in the middle. It sounds like a three-piece group, and I just don’t know how he does it.
In his modest, quiet way, McKenna always referred to himself as “more of a saloon player, really.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
What I’m trying to say here is that Dave McKenna is a fucking boss and I want to be him.