born on 28/9/1955 in Newport, NY, United States
died on 11/11/1998 in New York City, NY, United States
Kenneth David "Kenny" Kirkland (September 28, 1955 – November 12, 1998) was an American pianist/keyboardist.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1955, Kirkland was six when he first sat down at a piano keyboard. After years of Catholic schooling, Kirkland enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied classical piano performance, classical theory and composition.
Kirkland's first professional work came with Polish fusion violinist Michal Urbaniak, touring throughout Europe with his group in 1977. Coincidentally, his next high-profile gig was with another Eastern European jazz émigré, Miroslav Vitous. Kirkland is featured on Vitous' ECM recordings First Meeting and Miroslav Vitous Group.
In 1980, while Kirkland was on tour in Japan with Hino, he met Wynton Marsalis, which began their long association. On Marsalis's self-titled debut album, Kirkland shared the piano duties with one of his musical influences, Herbie Hancock, but was the sole pianist on Marsalis's subsequent releases Think of One, Hothouse Flowers and Black Codes. After his association with Wynton Marsalis, Kirkland joined Branford Marsalis's band. He is also on Marsalis's funk band album Buckshot Lefonque. When Branford Marsalis assumed the high-visibility role of bandleader for NBC TV's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Kirkland became the band's pianist. But his time on the Los Angeles-based The Tonight Show was short-lived, for while he finally received publicity, he felt he was not making "real music", and thus returned to the East Coast and more creative work after two years as The Tonight Show's pianist. He also ran contrary to jazz orthodoxy when he left Wynton Marsalis's acoustic traditional jazz combo to join Branford Marsalis, accompanying ex-Police pop star Sting. With Sting, and Marsalis (plus others) he played the keyboard synthesizer on the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles.
In 1991, he released his debut as a leader, Kenny Kirkland, on GRP Records. Thunder And Rainbows (1991, Sunnyside Records), by "Jazz from Keystone", is a trio album with Kirkland, Charles Fambrough, and Jeff "Tain" Watts.
Leading up to and on June 1–3, 1998, Kirkland worked with long-time associate Jeff "Tain" Watts on the drummer's debut recording Citizen Tain. According to producer Delfeayo Marsalis, "He was clearly not in good shape." When asked about going to the doctor, Kirkland responded, "After the session. If I go now, they'll make me check into a hospital." On June 4, doctors told Kirkland he had a congestive heart condition that required an operation. However, due to 20 years of road work without adequate vacations and a lack of physical exercise for many years, his chances of surviving any surgery were deemed 50/50 or less. Fearful of going under the blade, Kirkland accepted his fate and was soon on the road with Branford Marsalis again. On November 7, 1998, Kirkland attended Marsalis's wedding in his home town of New Rochelle, New York. Kirkland was found dead in his Queens apartment on Friday, November 13, 1998.
The official doctor's report listed his death as due to congestive heart failure. He was survived by his mother, a brother and two sisters.
- Kenny Kirkland (1991)
With Franco Ambrosetti
- Wings (Enja, 1984)
With Carla Bley
- Heavy Heart (Watt, 1984)
With Michael Brecker
- Michael Brecker (1987)
With Chico Freeman
- Peaceful Heart, Gentle Spirit (Contemporary, 1980)
- Pied Piper (Jdc Records, 1999)
With Kenny Garrett
- Black Hope (1992)
- Songbook (1997)
With Dizzy Gillespie
- Closer to the Source (Atlantic, 1984)
- New Faces (GRP, 1985)
With Billy Hart
- Rah (Gramavision, 1988)
With Jay Hoggard
- Rain Forest (album) (1980)
With Robert Hurst
- One for Namesake (1994)
With Elvin Jones
- Earth Jones (Palo Alto, 1982)
- Brother John (1982)
With David Liebman
- What It Is (CBS/Sony Inc 1980)
With Wynton Marsalis
- Wynton Marsalis (1981)
- Think of One (1983)
- Hot House Flowers (1984)
- Black Codes (1985)
With Branford Marsalis
- Scenes in the City (1983)
- Royal Garden Blues (1985)
- Renaissance (1986)
- Random Abstract (1987)
- Crazy People Music (1990)
- I Heard You Twice the First Time (1992)
- Requiem (1999)
With Delfeayo Marsalis
- Pontius Pilate's Decision (1992)
With Lew Soloff
- But Beautiful (1987)
- The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985)
- Bring on the Night (1986)
- ...Nothing Like the Sun (1987)
- Nada como el sol
- The Soul Cages (1991)
- Mercury Falling (1996)
With Miroslav Vitous
- First Meeting (ECM, 1979)
- Miroslav Vitous Group (ECM, 1980)
With Jeff "Tain" Watts
- Megawatts (1991)
- Citizen Tain (1999)
With John Scofield
- Who's Who? (1979)
With Arturo Sandoval
- I Remember Clifford (1992)
With Terence Blanchard
- Jazz in Film (1999)
With Hiram Bullock
- From All Sides (1986)
- "Michał Urbaniak - Urbaniak". Discogs. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "First Meeting - Miroslav Vitous | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Miroslav Vitous Group - Miroslav Vitous Group". Discogs. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Obituary: Kenny Kirkland". The Independent. 1998-11-18. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Wynton Marsalis". wyntonmarsalis.org. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Think of One - Wynton Marsalis | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Hot House Flowers - Wynton Marsalis | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Black Codes (From the Underground) - Wynton Marsalis | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Requiem for a Heavyweight: Marsalis Bids Kirkland Farewell". Observer. 1999-04-05. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Buckshot LeFonque - Buckshot LeFonque | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- Watrous;, Peter (1992-05-03). "Here's Branford". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- NYtimes obituary
- Obituary reprinted from the Daily Telegraph