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Kenny Werner was born on November 19, 1951 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
At the age of 11, he recorded a single with a fifteen-piece orchestra and appeared on television playing stride piano. He attended the Manhattan School of Music as a concert piano major. In 1970, he transferred to the Berklee School of Music.
Kenny's first band consisted of drummer Gary Berkowitz and bassist Alex Peglise. They called themselves: The Kenny Werner Trio.
In 1977, recorded first LP that featured of the music of Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson and George Gershwin and later that year with Charles Mingus on "Something Like A Bird"
In 1981, Werner recorded his own solo album of original compositions entitled Beyond the Forest of Mirkwood . The following year, Werner recorded the sounds heard coming from his Brooklyn-based studio - a hotbed of late-night jam sessions -- and titled the record after his address, 298 Bridge Street.
In the early 80s he toured extensively and recorded with Archie Shepp.
In 1984 he joined the Mel Lewis Orchestra. He was beginning to perform more and more in Europe and New York City as a leader and in duos with such notables as Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond and Jaki Byard, also doing stints in the groups of Eddie Gomez, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano and many others. Since 1989 he has served as pianist, arranger and musical director for the noted film, television and Broadway star, Betty Buckley. Since 1995 he has performed and recorded with Toots Thielemans. Mostly in duo, the two have also performed as a trio with Oscar Castro-Neves and as a quartet with Airto Moreira. Toots and Kenny have a wonderful duo CD named after them. Kenny earned a Grammy nomination for his composition on that CD titled, Inspiration. Kenny has a deep connection to Brazilian music having played and recorded with Joyce and recently with Joyce and Dori Cayimi.
Werner has received performance grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in both 1985 and 1987, and was commissioned to compose and conduct a memorial piece for Duke Ellington at St. John of the Divine Church in New York performed by the Manhattan School of Music's Stage Band and the New York City Choir. He has also won the distinguished Composer award from the New Jersey Council for the Arts.
He has also written compositions for the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, now known as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He has since written big band charts for groups such as the Cologne Radio Jazz Orchestra (WDR), the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, The Metropole Orchestra (Holland) and the Umo Jazz Orchestra (Finland). Throughout the mid 90s until today, Werner has had numerous orchestra commissions. In Europe and America. Most recently he was asked to join and write music for a company formed by Quincy Jones.
In 1981, he formed his first trio with bassist Ratzo Harris and drummer Tom Rainey. Their first trio CD for Sunnyside records was entitled, Ken Werner - Introducing The Trio. He would do another trio album for Sunnyside called Press Enter and a beautiful quintet album featuring Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, and Eddie Gomez entitled, Uncovered Heart. The trio with Harris and Rainey was an association that would last 14 years and record two more albums, Guru (TCB) and Live at Visiones (Concorde) That trio was generally acknowledged as being the most creative, intense and innovative heard in a long time. Kenny would record two more CDs for Concord; Duo with Chris Potter and Live at Maybeck Hall in solo. Since 1999 he has had a trio with Ari Hoenig on drums and Johannes Weidenmueller on bass. They have released three CDs together; Form and Fantasy, Beat Degeneration and Peace, Live at the Blue Note. In July 2006, Kenny Werner will release his next CD for Half Note records, again live at the Blue Note. This is a quintet featuring David Sanchez, Kenny Wheeler, Brian Blade and Scott Colley. In the fall he will record his first CD for Blue Note Records. Staying with the quintet form for the moment, he will record again with Brian Blade and Scott Colley, only this time he will be joined by Chris Potter and Dave Douglas.
In 1996, Kenny published a book that has had a major impact on the music world titled Effortless Mastery. It features priceless information about the physical, technical, psychological and spiritual aspects of being an artist. This book continues to help thousands of artists. That has made him in great demand as a teacher and clinician at Universities all over the world. He currently teaches his own techniques in classes at New York University.