WRTI's NPR Live Sessions Video of the Week: Tenor Saxophonist Larry McKenna and his Jazz Orchestra

Mar 30, 2020

Long hailed as one of the world’s finest tenor sax players, Larry McKenna possesses a fluid sound enhanced by bebop-inspired improvisations that has been embraced by jazz fans for over five decades.

Watch this video of the Larry McKenna Jazz Orchestra, featuring internationally acclaimed vocalist Joanna Pascale, during a recently recorded WRTI Live Sessions performance.

The Philadelphia-based saxman got his first significant break when, in 1959, he spent six months on the road as a member of Woody Herman's Big Band, and has played and recorded with Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra.

Larry’s influence as one of the most sought-out saxophone and jazz theory teachers in the Philadelphia region has helped students pursue successful careers in music.

“Early on in our pursuit of ensembles that would participate in WRTI’s inaugural venture into jazz video production, the decision was made to include Larry McKenna’s Jazz Orchestra as part of the rollout," said WRTI Jazz Host and NPR Live Session Executive Producer J. Michael Harrison.

“Larry’s velvet tone has long been a constant on the Philadelphia jazz scene. We felt that this project would help make the splash we were looking for as we debuted onto an emerging video platform. The level of talent present in this configuration is truly phenomenal and worthy of additional exposure. We had not recorded/filmed a band of this size featuring a vocalist in our studio prior to this date.

I’m so happy that we were able to fit this large ensemble into the WRTI performance studio! The session was amazing and adding to the magic are the wonderful lyrics of Melissa Gilstrap (who was onsite for the filming) and the lovely voice of Joanna Pascale."