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Dave McKenna

(5/30/1930 - 10/18/2008)

I first heard Dave in the summer of 1954. He was sitting in at the Hickory House in New York on a set of Edna Corbett’s, who was filling in for Marian McPartland. I remember being knocked out by his playing, but being the bebopper that I was then, I didn’t start following his career very closely until much later.

I heard him next a few years later playing solo at a jam session at Gene Smith’s famous loft at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York. I couldn’t believe my ears at what I was hearing. I listened in awe and wonder as his left hand pounded out groovy basslines equal to any of the best bass players on the scene, with such incredible resonance and smoothness (complete with “chick-a-booms” and “chickety-booms”) that it made one think that there was a bass player in the room. I’ve never heard anyone do the left-hand bass bit as convincingly as Dave. It was hypnotic. Yet I was still operating in different circles than he was, and didn’t really begin to latch onto his music until around 1980, when he began appearing regularly at Hanratty’s in New York.

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