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WRTI 90.1's Essential Jazz Artist No. 7: Larry McKenna

Melissa Gilstrap
Larry McKenna

Tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna is a Philadelphia legend, but the reach of his playing extends well past his hometown. Perhaps that’s why you’ve voted him our No.7 Essential Artist.

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Larry plays just as many gigs now as he did at the age of 18 when he went on the road for a year with a band of local musicians to tour the East Coast. He returned to Philadelphia and attended the Granoff School of Music before touring with Woody Herman’s Orchestra.

Invitations to play with well-known bands and artists continued to roll in over the years, so his resume boasts playing with the likes of Cark Terry, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, and Frank Sinatra. Larry is also an accomplished jazz educator, having taught at University of the Arts, Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, West Chester University, Widener University, and the Community College of Philadelphia.

  • Larry played and appeared in the 1984 movie “Birdy,” starring Nicholas Cage, and he arranged some of the featured music in the film.
  • Some of Larry’s arrangements were played by Doc Severinsen and the Band on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.
  • Larry Took the #2 spot on WRTI’s Top 100 Countdown of 2013 with the tune "One Falling Tree," featuring vocalist Joanna Pascale. It’s from Larry’s album From All Sides, which was released that year, and still receives national accolades.