We are writing you today about our beloved son-in-law and great jazz musician, Ray Kennedy, who died on Thursday May 28, 2015.
Ray was a not just a world renowned jazz pianist—he was a husband, father, and friend to many. The New York Times described Ray as “…an extraordinary pianist… [whose style] suggests a toned down fusion of Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner, with a dash of George Shearing,” while the London Jazz review Boz described Ray as “a pianist with a rare and electrifying talent.” His work as pianist/arranger with The John Pizzarelli Trio for over a decade led to Ray being internationally recognized as a leading exponent of the “swing jazz” piano style established by such jazz legends as Teddy Wilson and Nat Cole. Ray was introduced to music at an early age by his father, who took him to hear acclaimed jazz musicians on a regular basis. One such outing led to the then 14-year-old pianist meeting and ‘sitting in’ with the great Dizzy Gillespie.
Ray performed and/or recorded with many of the top names in jazz, including Nat Adderley, Ruby Braff, Buddy DeFranco, Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, David Sanborn, Woody Shaw, and Sonny Stitt. He recorded more than one hundred albums, not only in the field of jazz but in various other musical genres. Ray lived in New York City where he was active as a pianist, composer, and arranger, working with performers as diverse as Christina Aguilera and Maureen McGovern, for whom he also served as musical director.
His compositions have been featured on numerous recordings including the soundtracks of two motion pictures. He composed and performed the music for the off Broadway show Bill W. and Dr. Bob, which opened at the New World Stages in March of 2007. Ray was a featured guest artist on Marian McPartland’s NPR program Piano Jazz and contributed commentary on the music of Harry Warren on NPR’s Fresh Air program. He appeared with many major orchestras throughout the country, including The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, and made numerous television appearances on The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien, and Late Nite with David Letterman.
Ray has recorded 12 CDs with his trio, with several dedicated to the composers of the great popular standards including The Ray Kennedy Trio Plays The Music Of Cole Porter and The Ray Kennedy Trio Plays The Music Of Arthur Schwartz. Another CD entitled Mozart in Jazz was recorded for and released in Japan and went to #1 on the jazz chart. It also received a Gold Disc award for artistic excellence from the country’s leading jazz magazine, Swing Journal. Ray has performed in concerts and jazz festivals in twenty-one different countries throughout the world. His career tragically cut short by a rare and extremely debilitating form of Multiple Sclerosis.
Ray was a wonderful man and an amazing musician—he brought joy to so many lives and the world feels a lot emptier without him here.