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Kenny Werner: A Musical Expression of Grief

Jazz pianist creates masterpiece inspired by the tragic death of his teenaged daughter

Katheryn Werner
Katheryn Werner
Katheryn Werner with Toots Thielemans in Korea

On October 2, 2006, Katheryn Werner, the 16-year-old daughter of pianist Kenny Werner and his wife Lorraine, was driving home from her martial arts class not far from their home in upstate New York. The young woman was killed when the car overturned on a nearby road. That’s a story with a tragic end. But for the pianist and his wife, it had to be the beginning of a new story, based on musical expression, collaboration with trusted friends and a strengthened marital bond.

A new album by Werner, No Beginning, No End, has been released on Half Note Records and features music inspired by that tragic accident. Werner wrote the large-scale work for voice, choir, wind ensemble, saxophone and jazz rhythm section and used his close friends-saxophonist Joe Lovano and his wife singer Judi Silvano-as pivotal voices in the music’s production. Werner received a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship award for Music Composition for No Beginning, No End and has hopes to present the suite live in a concert hall setting, appropriate to its sweep and grandeur. It is arguably the most creatively ambitious project of Werner’s life and in the end its creation helped heal at least some of the wounds caused by that terribly traumatic time in his family’s life.

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