1 October 2019

Pete Recommends…Dave McKenna – Dave “Fingers” McKenna

Dave McKenna

Dave “Fingers” McKenna

[Chiaroscuro CD 175]


Solo jazz piano is a difficult art. Presenting the melody, sustaining the rhythm, improvising ; it is difficult to sustain these essential elements in a performance. Dave, in his later years, became a master of the art. Several CDs for Chiaroscuro and Concord provide us with remarkable examples from his enormous repertoire.

This CD has given me some great listening over the past 2 years. Dave describes it as a collection of the tunes often requested by drunks in bars – and often selected by himself when drunk! There are moments, for example with the version of the country music classic San Antonio Rose, when his tongue seems to be in his cheek, but that certainly does not apply to his beautiful reading of Irving Berlin’s All Alone or Fats Waller’s Lonesome Me. Fans of traditional jazz piano will enjoy his extended improvisation on Willie the Weeper and his warmly respectful treatment of the sometimes banal Tin Roof Blues. His first choice, My Melancholy Baby, with the verse played beautifully, is a perfect example of his approach to the classics of American popular song.

I hope that some local pianists, whatever their style, will give this a listen, probably by streaming. I challenge them to count how many different left hand accompaniment styles Dave uses in the course of this selection.

Pete Batten

[Dave “Fingers” Mckenna, with a cover cartoon of Dave based on
old baseball cigarette cards, is on Chiaroscuro CD 175. He was a fan of the Red Sox.]


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