HOMETOWN | Woonsocket [1930-2008]
BIO | The acclaimed musician — Whitney Balliet, the jazz critic for The New Yorker, called him "the hardest-swinging jazz pianist of all time" — learned the instrument from his mother and started performing in his late teens, including a stint with Woody Herman's Orchestra in the early '50s. After two years of military service, McKenna worked with the likes of Gene Krupa, Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Eddie Condon, and Bobby Hackett, but made his mark as a soloist beginning in the late '60s. He did seven albums for the Concord label [best title: My Friend the Piano], recorded with Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett, and opted to play small gigs in clubs and lounges close to his home in Cape Cod [he had a 10-year residency at the Copley Plaza in Boston].
QUOTABLE | "I don't know if I qualify as a bona fide jazz guy. I play saloon piano. I like to stay close to the melody."
FUN FACT | The diehard Red Sox fan sometimes listened to games on a transistor radio during his performances.
: Music Features
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