Dave McKenna fills more than five pages in Tom Lord's Jazz Discography and those are just his albums as a leader excluding the scores of albums he has been on as a sideman. Although dubbed by many as one of jazz piano's legends, McKenna dismisses it all by saying that he is just a saloon player. That falls into the same category as Frank Sinatra's deprecating self characterization that he was nothing more than a saloon singer.
This album is a 1977, a year when McKenna made six LPs for Chiaroscuro. Then, like now, he was one of the most accomplished practitioners of solo piano extant. He is known for his very strong and dominating left hand bass style giving him enormous rhythmic drive. He also eschews the "normal" patterns established for a particular song to the point that when hearing McKenna play a familiar tune, you get the feeling that it is slightly off center. I found myself checking the play list to confirm what I thought I was listening to. You hear this unique approach on cuts like "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home", :Someday Sweetheart" and "The Curse of an Aching Heart".
McKenna's strong rhythmic drive does not prevent him from becoming tender when delivering a ballad. There aren't that many of them, but on Casablanca's "As Time Goes By" (where he plays the verse) as much as any, reveals McKenna's tender treatment of a ballad.
At home in up beat Tin Pan Alley tunes or slow ballads, despite his modest disclaimer, McKenna is a living jazz legend and any album of his is worth having.
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