Kenwood Dennard was born in Brooklyn, New York in March of 1956. His parents were both professional singers. Kenwood began playing piano at age 3 and drums at age 8. He started private studies on piano at age 5 and on drums at age 9. In 1968, Kenwood attended David Mannes School where he studied ear training, theory, and piano. In 1971 he furthered his classical studies at the Manhattan School of Music Prep. Department, where he began studying percussion with Jim Price.
After finishing High School at age 17, Kenwood was accepted into Berklee College of Music in Boston that same year. There he majored in composition. His principal instrument was drums, which he studied with Gary Chaffee and Alan Dawson. Kenwood attended the accelerated program in order to make time to study theory with Nadja Boulanger during the summer of 1975 in Fontainebleu, France. Kenwood graduated Magna Cum Laude from Berklee in 1976. Thus he completed his formal training, but has continued to study with master musicians throughout the world.
Kenwood has played with the likes of Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, Ray Barretto, Harry Belafonte, and Art Blakey. Some cite Kenwood’s work with Maceo Parker as definitive or perhaps Brand X, while others point to his work with the likes of George Clinton, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Evans, Luther Vandross, Grover Washington, and Joe Zawinul. To say the least, Kenwood Dennard has slipped transparently into incredibly diverse musical situations.,/p>
In 1997, Dennard moved to Boston and took advantage of the rich musical scene, playing with many more name artists. He also became a respected educator, returning to Berklee College as a full-time associate professor. A good many of his students have gone on to starring roles. Examples include Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin and Wood), Richie Morales (Spyro Gyra), Marvin “Smitty” Smith (Branford Marsalis, The Jay Leno Show), Zac Alford (B-52s), Will Calhoun (Living Colour), and the late Tony Thompson, drummer for Chic and The Power Station.
Kenwood has created a unique, forceful, and seemingly ambidextrous drumming style that is daunting in its complexity. His version of ambidexterity extends beyond the drums, wherein he actually delivers rhythm, harmony, and melody while sitting behind a drum kit augmented by keyboards and percussion. This is no novel “one-man show” but, rather, an expansion of the traditional role of drummer to include melodic improvisation, singing and street rapping.
But Dennard’s expertise extends beyond solo performances-far beyond. A longtime collaborator with jazz/fusion artist Pat Martino, Kenwood’s agile and crisp style can be heard on Martino’s signpost albums Joyous Lake and more recently, Stone Blue. Both offer prime examples of Dennard’s command of the kit, his intensity, and his capacity to communicate musically.