Kenny Drew Jr. v. Dad

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Little is known about Kenny Drew Jr., one of jazz's finest pianists in the post-1960s era. Drew Jr. was the son of Kenny Drew, a superb bebop pianist who recorded with Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Miles Davis, among others. He also was on John Coltrane's Blue Trane, Sonny Rollins's Tour de Force and Jackie McLean's Jackie's Bag, to name just a few great albums. He moved to Paris in 1961 and then to Copenhagen in 1964, dying there in 1993 at age 64.

His son, Drew Jr., was something of a savant, extraordinary gifted as a musician but rather shy and socially withdrawn. To Drew Jr., music was his first language, particularly classical and jazz. He died in 2014 at age 56, but the cause was unclear because obit writers didn't have family members to turn to for information.

I've posted on Drew Jr. in the past. Today, I'd like to share with you an email from Dianne Nielsen, a reader:

“Regarding the question of how much attention Kenny Drew Sr. gave to his son, I know the answer: Kenny Drew Sr. left the U.S. for Paris when his son was 3 years old, and later settled in Copenhagen. During this period, there was no contact between them. Additionally, Kenny Jr.’s mother abandoned him at birth and he was brought up by his aunt, who taught Kenny classical piano.

“Kenny wanted to attend his father’s alma mater, New York's High School for Art & Music (which in later years would be the school in the movie Fame). But he wasn't allowed to apply. Instead, he was was sent to Catholic high school because, his father was reported to have said, 'The life of a musician is a miserable one, and no son of mine will be a professional musician.'

“In his teen years, Kenny Drew Jr. found a pile of jazz albums that his father had left behind in a closet. He listened to these in solitude throughout his teen years, finally emerging in adulthood as a self-taught jazz musician.

“Despite having had no relationship with his father, Kenny Drew Jr. can be found on You Tube playing a tribute to his father on the occasion of his birthday. That he would honor a parent who had not been there for him demonstrates Kenny’s great capacity for love and forgiveness.

“In another You Tube video, Kenny stands next to a portrait of his dad on the wall of his home. Indeed, when speaking of his parents, there was no trace of anger or bitterness in his demeanor or voice, despite their failure to care for him.

“We had been friends but lost touch. I am grieved to hear at your blog of his passing. Kenny had a heart and soul that matched his artistic brilliance. I miss him."

Here's an audio interview with Kenny Drew Jr....



Here's Drew Jr. playing Goodbye Mr. Jones, an original composition written in tribute to the late Hank Jones...



Here's Drew Jr. playing his father's Evening in the Park...



Here's Drew Jr. playing Horace Silver's Peace and a staggering rendition of Silver's Serenade...



And here's Drew Jr playing Caravan...

Continue Reading...

This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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