Carr Center
311 East Grand River
Detroit, Michigan
313-965-8430 Ext. 23

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Harold McKinney

Harold McKinney - Jazz masters

Jazz pianist Harold McKinney was a driving force in Detroit's jazz scene in the '40s on through the new millennium. McKinney was inspired to study classical music as a child by his mother, Bessie Walon McKinney, an organist. He was converted into a jazzman when he walked into an ice cream shop and heard Charlie Parker on the juke box playing bebop on the alto sax.

After graduating from Detroit's Northwestern High School, McKinney continued onto Morehouse College in Atlanta. He returned home when he became disenchanted with the college's bias beliefs towards European music. He briefly attended Wayne State University and served in the Army during the early '50s in Germany. The pianist played all sorts of jazz from bop to boogie woogie and worked with many greats including Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane, and Wes Montgomery and toured to cities around the world. Fellow musicians have credited McKinney with helping to keep jazz in Detroit's musical forefront when trends in popular culture threatened its livelihood. The pianist was also a teacher, appearing on instructional videos and giving private lessons and weekly workshops at Detroit's SerNgeti Ballroom. In 1990, McKinney received the Jazz Master award from Arts Midwest for lifetime achievement. In 1995, he toured Africa and the Middle East with his band, the Jazz Masters. In May of 2001, McKinney entered the hospital after a stroke, returning to teach his SerNgeti workshop a week later. Shortly after, he was readmitted to the hospital due to the first in a long series of strokes. McKinney underwent surgery but passed away due to a stroke-induced coma on June 20, 2001. He gave his final performance on June 10 at the semiannual Jam & Bread student showcase for the ballroom workshops.

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