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Harold McKinney Dies at 72

Pianist, educator and composer Harold McKinney, a shining star in the Detroit jazz scene, died Wednesday night at Henry Ford Hospital after suffering a series of strokes. He was 72.

McKinney was influential in keeping the Detroit jazz scene alive, even when it threatened to succumb to the forces of popular culture.

“Even when jazz wasn’t the most popular medium in Detroit, he kept the jazz idiom alive and well through his continued work as a performer, composer and teacher,” said trumpeter Marcus Belgrave of McKinney in an interview with the Free Press in 1998.

As a musician, McKinney worked with several jazz greats including John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. He also appeared on albums by Wendell Harrison and Belgrave in the ’70s and ’80s. An album of duets featuring McKinney and Harrison entitled Something for Pops was released by Wenha in 1993.

McKinney kept active until the end of his life. After suffering a stroke in May, he continued to lead his jazz workshop and gave his final performance June 10 at his semiannual “Jam & Bread” student showcase at the SereNgeti Ballroom in Detroit. A day later he suffered the first in a series of strokes that would eventually lead to his death.

McKinney is survived by his wife Jahra Michelle, his daughters Maia, Sienna, Gayelynn and Jore and one grandchild.

Originally Published