Greg McKenzie, International jazz pianist and composer, whose crossover from Chopin to Oscar Peterson, continues to mesmerize audiences with his unique sensitivity, original arrangements, and showmanship. He was born April 26, 1962, in Trenton, New Jersey. Growing up he played various instruments including bass clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and tympani, until discovering a stronger connection with the piano, which later became his primary instrument. In August of 1976, McKenzie lost the tip of his right index finger in a lawn mower accident, but continued playing organ and piano despite a 2-year recovery. Music of all genres continued to play a crucial role in McKenzie’s life and development. In 1980, before graduating from Ewing High School he received the orchestra award playing woodwinds and multiple percussion instruments. Thereafter, he auditioned and was selected playing bass clarinet with “America’s Youth in Concert.” This symphonic band performed and recorded in Carnegie Hall before a 4-week European concert tour.
In 1984, after graduating from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music with a bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies, McKenzie taught jazz improvisation and piano at Shenandoah Performing Arts Camp before moving to Washington, D.C. to collaborate and study with Dr. Billy Taylor.
McKenzie moved to Los Angeles in 1987 with a song lyricist named Darrell Spencer and devoted his time to songwriting before acquiring an interest in movie soundtracks, which led him to study film scoring and composition with Hollywood orchestrator Ron Gorow.
Toward the late ’80s, McKenzie and his newly formed trio called “Mood Indigo” was invited to Nashville, Tennessee, by Grammy Award recording engineer John Hill to record their first Mood Indigo CD.
After arriving in New York City in 1994 to perform at Windows on the World located on the 107th fl. of the World Trade Center, he incorporated his publishing company FingerNail Moon, joined ASCAP, and the Local 802 Musicians Union.
From 1996, McKenzie produced his first CD entitled “Happy Endings” at Rainbow and Stars the cabaret
adjoining the Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center. During McKenzie’s 3-year stint at Rainbow and Stars, he opened for Joe Williams, Vic Damone, Ruth Brown, Anthony Newly, and Rosemary Clooney, amongst many others
During 1999, he began traveling internationally as a soloist to 4 continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America) performing at many venues such as the Hilton Tokyo Bay, the Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi, and the Jnan Palace Fes in Morocco. By 2000, McKenzie was invited performing a piano concert tour of Taiwan, concluding at the National Theater and Concert Hall, Taipei.
Music consulting became a noteworthy component of McKenzie’s career since 2001. His ability to perform and produce some of the best international shows and ensembles throughout Asia and the Middle East have been well acknowledged.
In 2003, McKenzie was accepted at Purchase Conservatory of Music to pursue a Master’s degree, but declined to attend, instead accepting a music directing gig at the newly opened Tokyo Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Hills, Japan. That year he also met saxophonist Sadao Watanabe. From then on McKenzie and Watanabe have frequently worked together — touring, recording, and appearing on national television and radio in Japan.
McKenzie’s expertise to perform and produce the best international ensembles has proved to be successful and musically rewarding. “The way I play is part of my personality. Every piece requires a different sound capturing its mood and feeling. The aim and goal is to inspire the listener for more.”