Kenny Drew Jr. (1958-2014)
Kenny Drew Jr., son of hard bop pianist Kenny Drew and an impeccable jazz pianist in his own right who could play with dashing swing, breathtaking control, and lush romanticism, died on August 3. He was 56.
Drew—whose very name placed him in the shadow of his father, who died August 4, 1993—focused initially on classical and then pop before he began recording jazz in the late 1980s. Sitting at the piano with a resemblance to TV's Tony Soprano, Drew was the anchor of any ensemble and was both a teddy bear and an intimidating force as he effortlessly unspooled the most beautiful chords and lines without ever going overboard.
Drew Jr., was something of a savant, extraordinarily gifted as a musician but rather shy and socially withdrawn. To Drew Jr., music was his first language, particularly classical and jazz. He died in 2014 at age 56, but the cause and his life facts were a bit unclear because obit writers didn't have family members to turn to for information.
In recent years, Drew had become one of the finest pianists of his generation, exhibiting an astonishing technique and taste level. The fact that he wasn't better known or more widely celebrated is somewhat astonishing and enigmatic. One possible reason was his introverted nature and preference for remaining in St. Petersburg, Florida. Another is our changing culture, which has made earning a living as a jazz artist increasingly difficult for anyone. Drew's recent health problems certainly didn't help.