Max Roach, Kenny Horst, Kenny Washington
Max Roach, Kenny Horst, Kenny Washington

Early Years
Kenny Horst grew up on St. Paul's West Side, a no-nonsense, blue-collar enclave known for engendering fierce loyalty among its residents. (Horst is back living there today with his wife Dawn). Horst started out playing piano before picking up drums around age 15, and was already playing with rock and R&B bands during his high school years. After graduating from high school in the early 1960s, Horst attended the MacPhail music school and studied with Marv Dahlgren (an internationally revered percussionist and instructor) and Reuben Haugen (a Twin Cities reed instrument institution). Steady gigging was a constant for Horst from his first days in the music business.
The Twin Cities jazz scene in the 1960s was filled with characters and colorful venues - the strip clubs that dotted Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis and featured live music were a major source of income for local jazzers. Kenny played at all of those, with other notable names like Jim Marentic, Hubert Eaves and Eddie Berger. Other work came at spots like the Midway of the State Fair and on the road with Leon Clax-ton's Harlem Revue as part of the legendary Royal American Shows.

Drummer of the Year
In 1968, Horst began a three-and-a-half year stint with piano great Bobby Lyle (who went on to join Sly & the Family Stone and Al Jarreau's band). The group was a staple at the black clubs in the Twin Cities, including the Nacirema, the Blue Note on Minneapolis' North Side and the Ebony Lounge in St. Paul.
Horst and Lyle also held down a weekly Sunday gig with Willie Weeks at Pudge's in St. Paul. Horst was so entrenched in this scene that the young white drummer was named "Black Drummer of the Year" at the 1969 Jackie Awards. The West Bank scene also called on Horst's drumming talents when it was at its creative peak around the late 1960s. Among the luminaries Horst performed with were Willie and the Bees,
"Spider" John Koerner, and Dave Ray's Bamboo.

5 young men wearing white jackets, skinny ties, and black pants perform jazz music in the 1950's.
Kenny at Medina Ballroom playing with Rollie's Royal Vagabonds

The First Booking Gig
Kenny Horst has gained as much respect for his skills at booking talent as he has for his musicianship. His first job as a booker was from 1972 to 1975 at a club called Davey Jones Locker. Which is not to say that he ever put down the drum sticks. Horst was solidifying musical relationships during this period which would continue on for decades - other Twin Cities greats like Irv Williams (saxophone), Billy Peterson (bass) and Mike Elliott (guitar), and national stars including bossa nova pianist Manfredo Fest, saxophone/flautist Lew Tabackin, pianist Art Resnick and many others. Another important connection was made in 1976 when Horst was playing with Joey Strobel at Duff's in the Park. The R&B band included a singer named Dawn who would eventually become Kenny's wife.

The AQ Connection and All Those Names
Around the same time as the 1983 release of Kenny Horst, the drummer-booker began choosing talent and working publicity for the Artists' Quarter jazz club at its original location at 26 th & Nicollet in Minneapolis. Although not yet the owner of the club, Horst began his long association and played with many of the big names who came through. The list of jazz royalty that have benefitted from Horst's drumming over the years is staggering. The "very short" list includes Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd, Tal Farlow, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Joanne Bracken, Jim Rotondi, Mose Allison, (with whom Kenny also toured), Barney Kessel, Sweets Edison, Jimmy McGriff, Cedar Walton, Eric Alexander and many more. Kenny played drums often with the late B-3 organ legend Brother Jack McDuff, even introducing McDuff to his future wife Cathy. Not only has Kenny performed with a who's-who of jazz, he has also been tapped for studio work by great talents both well-known and under the radar.

This impressive list of artists who've featured Horst's drumming on recordings includes Ira Sullivan (Kenny also co- produced), Lee Konitz (also produced), Ben Sidran, Herbie Lewis, many of the famous Peterson family members (Patty, Bobby, Linda), Irv Williams (several recordings), Billy Holloman, George Avaloz, Bill Carrothers, the great vocalist Carole Martin (who is also Kenny's mother-in-law), Anthony Cox and more.
How Birds Work, who can still be seen regularly at the Artists' Quarter, is one of Horst's "regular" groups that has produced a fine recording. Always one to keep busy, Horst was also booking other clubs during the early 1990s, including the Roxy, Williams Pub and the Café Luxx. In 1995, Kenny took a big step and took over ownership of the Artists' Quarter jazz club at its new location on Jackson Street in Downtown St. Paul. Kenny's tireless devotion to the art form has transcended the club into the "true jazz" venue of the Twin Cities. It is a favorite of touring musicians and hard-core jazz lovers locallyand beyond. In 2001, Kenny moved the club to its current location in the Historic Hamm Building in Downtown St. Paul.

Of course, there's more to Kenny Horst than just jazz. Although the many people whose lives he's touched in music consider him family, his wife Dawn and sons David and Steven are at the center of his life.
That's just a small bit about Kenny Horst.

Remember, you read it here - he'll never tell you.

Kenny Horst is just happy to let the music do the talking.

-Pat Courtemanche

Kenny Horst, circa 1960's
Kenny Horst, circa 1960's