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Photo by Nick Myers & Aaron Rockers
November 19, 1951|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Labels||Concord, RCA, Double-Time, Half Note, Justin Time|
|Associated acts||Joe Lovano, Betty Buckley|
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1951 and then growing up in Oceanside, New York, Werner began playing and performing at a young age, first recording on television at the age of 11. Although he studied classical piano as a child, he enjoyed playing anything he heard on the radio and improvisation was his true calling. In high school and his first years of college he attended the Manhattan School of Music as a classical piano major.
From Boston, Werner traveled to Brazil with the saxophonist Victor Assis Brasil. There he met Assis's twin brother, Brazilian pianist Joao Assis Brasil. His studies with Joao and Madame Chaloff would lead to the writing of the book Effortless Mastery.
Later life and career
Werner started his own trio in 1981 with drummer Tom Rainey and bassist Ratzo Harris. The Kenny Werner Trio matured for fourteen years, touring in America and Europe and recording four albums along the way.
In the 1980s, he became the pianist for The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (currently known as the Village Vanguard Orchestra). Challenged by Lewis and Bob Brookmeyer to write for the band, he produced his first compositions and arrangements for jazz orchestra, consequently leading him to write for the bands in Europe including the Cologne, Danish, and Stockholm Jazz Orchestras, the Umo Jazz Orchestra of Finland and several times as the guest composer and soloist with the Metropole Orchestra of Holland. Since then Werner has had commissions to write for large ensembles such as jazz orchestras, full orchestras and most in 2007, wind ensemble, choir and string quartet as featured on his album No Beginning, No End (2009).
Werner continued to play duo with Toots Thielemans for seventeen years. They recorded an album together and Werner received a Grammy nomination for his composition, "Inspiration." For twenty years, he was musical director for Broadway star Betty Buckley. They made six albums together and she has sung his arrangements for small bands and orchestras. He and Joe Lovano have recorded and collaborated on each other's projects for over 40 years.
During the 1990s, Werner made three award-winning albums: Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Vol. 34, Concord Duo Series, Vol. 10, and Live at Visiones.
In 2000, Werner formed a trio with Ari Hoenig on drums and Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, with Werner acting as composer, arranger, and pianist. In 2007, he released his first album for Blue Note Records. Lawn Chair Society, featuring Chris Potter, Dave Douglas, Scott Colley, and Brian Blade.
Werner was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the album No Beginning No End (Half Note, 2010), which explored tragedy and loss, death and transition, and the path from one lifetime to the next. The album featured Joe Lovano, Judi Silvano, and over seventy musicians.
In 1996, Werner wrote a book about the psychological aspects of music in Effortless Mastery – Liberating the Master Musician Within. He lectured to support the book.
- Grants, National Endowment for the Arts, 1985, '87, '93, '95
- Guggenheim Fellowship, 2010
- Distinguished Artist Award for Composition, New Jersey Council of the Arts, "Kandinsky"
- 1977 The Piano Music of Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, James P. Johnson (Atlantic)
- 1979 Timing (1978)/In "Blue" Gene Tyranny's "Just for the Record" (Lovely Music)
- 1981 Beyond the Forest of Mirkwood
- 1990 Introducing the Trio (Sunnyside)
- 1990 Uncovered Heart (Sunnyside)
- 1992 Press Enter (Sunnyside)
- 1994 Concord Duo Series, Vol. 10 (Concord Jazz)
- 1994 Copenhagen Calypso (Steeplechase)
- 1994 Gu-Ru (TCB)
- 1994 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 34 (Concord)
- 1995 Live at Visiones (Concord Jazz)
- 1995 Meditations (Steeplechase)
- 1998 A Delicate Balance (RCA Victor)
- 1998 Unprotected Music (Double-Time)
- 2000 Beauty Secrets (RCA Victor)
- 2001 Form and Fantasy, Vol. 1 (Double-Time)
- 2001 Toots Thielemans & Kenny Werner (Verve)
- 2002 Beat Degeneration: Live, Vol. 2 (Sunnyside)
- 2002 Celebration (Stunt)
- 2003 Naked in the Cosmos (Jazz 'n' Pulz)
- 2004 Peace (Half Note)
- 2006 Democracy (Half Note)
- 2007 Lawn Chair Society (Blue Note)
- 2008 At Ease (Cowbell)
- 2008 Play Ballads (Stunt)
- 2008 With a Song in My Heart
- 2009 A Way with Words (Cowbell)
- 2009 New York – Love Songs (Outnote)
- 2009 Walden (Cowbell)
- 2010 Living Effortless Mastery (City Hall)
- 2010 No Beginning No End (Half Note)
- 2011 Balloons: Live at the Blue Note (Half Note)
- 2011 Institute of Higher Learning (Half Note)
- 2012 Me, Myself & I (Justin Time)
- 2013 Celestial Anomaly (Pancake)
- 2013 Collaboration (Challenge)
- 2015 The Melody (Pirouet)
- "Channeling Music", Organica, Spring, 1988
- "Play for the Right Reasons", Organica, Winter 1990
- "Hostile Triads – The Piano Stylist & Jazz Workshop", April–May 1991
- Effortless Mastery, Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc., 1996
- "Zen and the Art of Jazz", Down Beat, 2015 (four-article series)