Kenny Drew

Kenny Drew (1928-1993) was a top-notch bebop pianist influenced by Bud Powell who developed his own approach, fitting easily into hard-bop settings.

Drew began playing piano when he was five and within three years had given a recital. He made his recording debut with trumpeter Howard McGhee in 1950 and was in great demand during the decade. Drew had the opportunities to work with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Buddy DeFranco, Dinah Washington, Art Blakey, Buddy Rich, and his own trios.

During 1956-1957, Drew recorded several worthy sets for the Riverside and Judson labels, music that has been reissued in the Original Jazz Classics series. Kenny Drew Trio teams him with bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones for six standards (including an early version of Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear”) and his two originals “Weird-O” and “Blues for Nica.” Plays the Music of Harry Warren and Harold Arlen, duet dates with bassist Wilbur Ware, feature Drew’s interpretations of a dozen songs apiece by Warren and Arlen, the complete contents of two former LPs. This Is New teams Drew in a quintet with such up-and-coming hard-boppers as trumpeter Donald Byrd and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. Drew’s final Riverside date as a leader, Pal Joey, has the pianist, Wilbur Ware, and Philly Joe Jones performing five songs written by Rodgers and Hart for the play Pal Joey plus three earlier numbers that were included in the film including “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.”

In 1961, Drew moved to Paris, relocating permanently to Copenhagen three years later. He was well documented by the SteepleChase label in the 1970s and stayed very active up until the time of his death in 1993. His son, Kenny Drew, Jr, emerged in the 1990s as one of jazz’s top pianists.