Joe Kennedy Jr.



As to Kennedy's violin influences, he responds to an audience member that he's always been more interested in emulating the sound of horns than of jazz vocalists. A particularly interesting audience query asks if Kennedy thinks of himself as a jazz musician who plays the violin, or a violinst who also plays jazz. Kennedy responds that he is simply "a violinist who can improvise," a succinct response that draws giggles from the audience. A delightfully engaging man who is given to concise answers, Kennedy answers a question about the violin's sound and approach in dealing with different types of music, like jazz and folk music.

Kennedy served in the Army during World War II and performed in the Camp Lee Symphony Orchestra in Petersburg, Virginia. After his discharge he formed the Four Strings with Jamal, guitarist Ray Crawford, and bassist Edgar Willis. The quartet explored bebop textures within an unusual setting. With the help of pianist Mary Lou Williams, the group landed a contract with Disc Records and cut their first album, Trends, in 1949. The album was reviewed favorably in Down Beat, and the magazine specifically described Kennedy as "the cleanest violin we've ever heard". Kennedy continued to work with Jamal and Benny Carter off and on throughout his life. He also performed with the likes of Toots Thielemans, John Lewis, the Heath Brothers, Hank Jones, Billy Taylor, the Roanoke Symphony, Jon Faddis and the Great American Jazz Ensemble.
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