Ray Kennedy (pianist)

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Ray Kennedy
Maplewood, Missouri, U.S.
DiedMay 28, 2015
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
Associated actsJohn Pizzarelli

Raymond Huston "Ray" Kennedy Jr. (1957 – May 28, 2015) was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. He was a member of John Pizzarelli's trio for more than a decade and recorded more than 10 albums under his own name.

Life and career[edit]

Kennedy was born and grew up in Maplewood, Missouri, in 1957.[1] His father was a bandleader, trumpeter and vocalist in the 1930s and 1940s in St. Louis.[2] His mother worked in the Maplewood music store that his parents owned.[2] Kennedy had two siblings: Tom, who became a bassist; and Wanda, who also became a musician.[2] With his brother, he formed The Ray Kennedy Trio at the age of 13, and they played together, including with their sister as vocalist, for five years.[2] According to a biographer of Ruby Braff, Ray and his brother made a recording together in 1972.[3]

Kennedy moved to New York City in his early twenties.[2] He was pianist and arranger for the John Pizzarelli Trio for almost 13 years,[4][5] after joining in 1993.[6] With the John Pizzarelli Trio, Kennedy played with the New York Pops and Boston Pops orchestras, played for Broadway and off-Broadway productions, and toured internationally.[2] Kennedy first recorded with Pizzarelli in 1994, after making two recordings for Randy Sandke.[3] In 1997 he was part of the cast for the musical Dream.[7] In 2003 he recorded a piano duo album with Dick Hyman.[8]

Around 2005, Kennedy, according to John Pizzarelli, "began expressing a desire to get off the road and spend more time with his family".[5] Kennedy developed multiple sclerosis symptoms in 2006.[2] His career had ended by 2013, and he was living in a nursing home.[2] Kennedy died at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City, on May 28, 2015.[2] He was survived by his wife, Eve Langner, and two daughters, Lauren and Brielle.[2]

Playing style[edit]

"Kennedy was known for his finger technique and his ability to swing and improvise versions of well-known jazz works."[2]


An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
I'm Beginning to See the Light Victoria With Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Martin Pizzarelli, Ray Brown (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)
2000* The Sound of St. Louis Victoria
2003 What Is There to Say? Victoria Co-led with Dick Hyman; duo, with Hyman (piano)
2005* The Swing Kings Victoria Co-led with Bucky Pizzarelli; with Pizzarelli (guitar), Ken Peplowski (clarinet), Chuck Redd (vibraphone), Martin Pizzarelli (bass), Tony Tedesco (drums)
2005 Mozart in Jazz Camerata Trio, with Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums)
2006 Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz Arbors Quartet, with Joe Cohn (guitar), Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums)
2006 Bach in Jazz Camerata Trio, with Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums)
2007 Soft Winds Camerata Trio, with Tom Kennedy (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2007 Baroque in Jazz Camerata Trio, with Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums)
2008 Classic in Jazz Camerata Trio, with Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums)
2008 Beethoven in Jazz Camerata Trio, with Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums)
2009 癒しジャズ Camerata with Tom Kennedy (bass), Miles Vandiver (drums), Sumiko Fukatsu (flute), Howard Alden (guitar)

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
c. 1977 Kenny Rice The Kenny Rice and Richard Martin Quartet Featuring Nat Adderley Valley Recorder
1990 Dave Weckl Master Plan GRP
1990 Randy Sandke Stampede Jazzology
1993 Randy Sandke I Hear Music Concord Jazz
1993 John Pizzarelli Naturally
1994* John Pizzarelli New Standards
1994 John Pizzarelli Dear Mr. Cole Jive
1995 John Pizzarelli After Hours Jive
1995–98 Harry Allen Harry Allen Meets the John Pizzarelli Trio RCA
1996* John Pizzarelli Let's Share Christmas
1997* Bucky Pizzarelli and John Pizzarelli Passion Guitars
1997 John Pizzarelli Our Love Is Here to Stay
1998* John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles
1999* John Pizzarelli P.S. Mr. Cole
1999 John Pizzarelli Kisses in the Rain Telarc
2000 John Pizzarelli Let There Be Love Telarc
2002 Ruby Braff Relaxing at the Penthouse Victoria
2002 Ruby Braff C'est Magnifique! Arbors
2003* John Pizzarelli Live at Birdland Telarc
2003* Jessica Molaskey A Good Day PS Classics
2003 John Pizzarelli Bossa Nova Telarc
2003 Buddy DeFranco Cookin' the Books Arbors
2004* Martin Pizzarelli Triple Play Victoria
2004 John Pizzarelli Knowing You Telarc
2007 Harry Allen Down for the Count


  1. ^ "Ray Kennedy". npr. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Sorkin, Michael D. (June 3, 2015) "Ray Kennedy, Renowned Jazz Pianist from St. Louis, Dies at 58 from MS". stltoday.com
  3. ^ a b Hustad, Thomas P. (2012) Born to Play: The Ruby Braff Discography and Directory of Performances. Scarecrow. p. 604. ISBN 978-0-8108-8264-5.
  4. ^ "Pianist Ray Kennedy Dies at 58". (May 31, 2015) JazzTimes.
  5. ^ a b Pizzarelli & Cosgriff 2012, p. 202.
  6. ^ Pizzarelli & Cosgriff 2012, pp. 121–122, 194.
  7. ^ Evans, Greg (April 13, 1997) "Review: 'Dream'". Variety.
  8. ^ Dryden, Ken "Dick Hyman – What Is There to Say?". AllMusic. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  • Pizzarelli, John; Cosgriff, Joseph (2012). World on a String: A Musical Memoir. John Wiley. ISBN 978-1-118-06297-5.