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Pianist Kenny Drew Jr. Dies at 56

A virtuoso in both the jazz and classical realms

Kenny Drew Jr.
Kenny Drew Jr.

Kenny Drew Jr., a prolific pianist raised on classical music and steeped in blues and bop alike, died Aug. 3 in his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. The cause was not reported but Drew’s death was confirmed by Scott Elias of Random Act Records, the last label for which Drew recorded. Drew was 56 and was known to have had a toe amputated last year due to diabetes.

The son of Kenny Drew, himself a famed pianist active from the 1950s-’90s, Kenny Drew Jr. was born in New York City on June 14, 1958, and studied classical piano in his youth. He began playing jazz in his teens and turned professional upon graduating from college in 1978. Drew released his debut album, The Flame Within, in 1987 and in 1990 he won the Great American Jazz Piano competition in Jacksonville, Fla. In all, he recorded more than 20 albums as a leader during the course of his career. In addition he performed or recorded with Stanley Jordan, the Mingus Big Band, Sadao Watanabe, Stanley Turrentine, Slide Hampton, Steve Grossman, Smokey Robinson, Frank Morgan and others.

Drew also performed classical music concerts and gave master classes and private lessons.

Pianist George Colligan has posted a tribute to Drew, accessible here.

Originally Published