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Remembering the life of renowned jazz pianist Ray Kennedy

Dennis C. Owsley
Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

On Friday, “Cityscape” host Steve Potter led a discussion about the life and career of jazz pianist Ray Kennedy who died on May 28 after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

Born to a musical family in Maplewood, Kennedy began his career in St. Louis before moving to New York. He is perhaps best known as the pianist/arranger for the John Pizzarelli Trio.

Kennedy and his siblings received music lessons at an early age. Following the footsteps of their father, they formed their own band, “The Ray Kennedy Trio.” After a few years, each member went on to pursue other opportunities and Ray moved to New York.

Besides his work with the John Pizzarelli Trio, Kennedy performed on Broadway, on movie soundtracks and in orchestras. He recorded an album titled “Sounds of St. Louis,” which included a selection featuring late Cardinals player Stan Musial on harmonica in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

John Pizzarelli, jazz vocalist and guitarist, and Rick Haydon, guitarist and professor of music at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, joined Potter to remember their friend and fellow musician.

“He was a force of nature on the piano,” said Pizzarelli. “It was nothing like him. It’s so sad to even talk about him in the past tense, but his music lives on and it’s great to have it.”

“[Ray] is probably one of the greatest pianists I’ve ever heard play, [and] the greatest musician that I’ve ever known,” Haydon said of his friend.

Pizzarelli and his father Bucky will headline a concert on July 17 at The Sheldon to celebrate Kennedy’s life as well as benefit his family.

“[John Pizzarelli Trio] leaned on him so much,” Pizzarelli said of Kennedy’s impact on the group. “He was always raising the game of the whole group all the time. I was really fortunate; I learned so much music being around him.”

Related Event

The Sheldon Presents A Celebration of the Life & Music of Ray Kennedy

  • When: Friday, July 17, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63108
  • More Information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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