Introducing Kenny Banks Jr.

“Whaaaaaaa?!?!! I’m going to go out tonight!” Kenny Banks Jr., son of a church singer and a jazz pianist, learned he was a finalist for the 2019 American Pianists Awards on March 11, 2018.

“Man, I’ve been checking my emails daily, and I don’t do that!”

Kenny Banks Jr.

The phone call in March marked the beginning of a new chapter for this Columbus, Ohio native and Atlanta resident’s colorful life.

Kenny's first exposure to music came through his parents--both musicians--and St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbus. Kenny accompanied his mother, Esther Banks, to her choir practices and gained an appreciation for gospel music that infuses the spirit of his music today.


Kenny began his training one on one with his father. Kenny Banks Sr., a jazz pianist, taught his son the fundamentals of music theory, jazz and composition after Junior graduated from "banging pots and pans" in the kitchen:

In 2003, Kenny took his next step, signing on with Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra--an organization with which fellow Columbus native, 2011 American Pianists Awards winner Aaron Diehl, also performed. This brought opportunities to tour and play for audiences in Peru, Canada and many countries in Europe. 

Kenny moved to Atlanta in 2009 to pursue his musical career full time. That same year he joined the Theo Croker Quintet and played gigs at the Peace Hotel, Jay-Z Club, The Cotton Club and for government officials of Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Making his name in Atlanta, Kenny has worked alongside many Grammy-nominated artists including Jennifer Holliday, Dionne Farris, India Arie, Carmen Bradford, Russell Gunn, Jazzmeia Horn, Les Nubians and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. He has also been featured in multiple film and television productions including “Bessie” alongside Queen Latifah, “Jacob’s Ladder” with Michael Ealy, “Star,” “Married to Medicine” and a Gil Evans documentary for executive producer Terence Blanchard.

Bessie: The Music of Bessie Smith (HBO Films)
Bessie: The Music of Bessie Smith by HBO Films (view trailer)

With these varied experiences, Kenny brings thoughtful expression to each performance. Here he talks about a piece he submitted for the preliminary round adjudication:

Clearly we are feeling it, Kenny!

Looking for more? Kenny has a message for you:


Kenny Banks Jr. is a finalist for the 2019 American Pianists Awards. His debut performance as a finalist comes May 17 at the American Pianists Awards Sneak Preview at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in NYC. On September 29, Kenny will perform two sets at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis in the adjudicated Premiere Series. Follow @apapianists #AmericanPianistsAwards and #TeamKenny for updates!

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