Kenny graduated from playing cookware and started to play the piano at age seven.
Growing up in a household of musicians gave Kenny Banks Jr. license to make music of his own—using whatever he could find to make a beat.
Kenny graduated from playing cookware and started to play the piano at age seven. Training one on one with his father, Kenny Banks Sr. (also a pianist), he learned the fundamentals of music theory, jazz, and composition. Under the guidance of his mother Esther Banks, music director at St. Paul AME Church in Columbus, Ohio, the church became his first musical outlet, and it would be the training ground for the growth of his musicality and professionalism.
Kenny is noted for his blended technique in mixing jazz and gospel styles. Downbeat Magazine describes his playing as “gospel and blues-infused” and calls his arrangements “thrilling, modern and surprising.” Jazziz Magazine notes his “deeply embodied gospel and soul roots” with “supple phrasing and effortless command of late 20th-century harmony.”
In 2003, Kenny entered the broader world of music with the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra, and he joined the orchestra in tours of Peru, Canada across Europe. In 2009, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia to pursue his musical career full time.
Kenny toured with the Theo Croker Quintet in China and accompanied Global Peace Song Award winner and Grammy-nominated trumpeter Darren English in the South African Jazz Festival. He has performed across the United States with such artists as Jennifer Holiday, Jazzmeia Horn, India Arie, and Phife Dog of A Tribe Called Quest.
From his base in Atlanta, Kenny has been a part of several films and television productions including HBO’s “Bessie” starring Queen Latifah, “Jacob’s Ladder” with Michael Ealy, “Star” on Fox, “Married to Medicine,” and a Gil Evans documentary for executive producer Terence Blanchard.
In 2019, Kenny was a finalist in the 2019 American Pianists Awards and performed to great acclaim in solo and trio formats, as well as with Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling. He plans to release a new album of traditional jazz later this year.
Via pots and pans or 88 keys, music is Kenny’s passion, and he revels in sharing that love with other people.
Hear our interview with C. Stene Duckworth