Kenny Butler
Status: Member
Member Since: February 20, 2007
Last Visit:April 14, 2013

Kenny Butler

Kenny Butler is one of the few jazz improvisational violinists and
composers active in the world today. To see him perform is to
experience something unique and rare, and to witness a shining example of technical and improvisational virtuosity. With a repertoire that encompasses the traditions of the last four centuries of western classical music, 20th century jazz and the Celtic folk traditions of the British Isles, Kenny is an explorer, leading his audience on exciting, surprising musical adventures. His engaging personality paves the way for effortless interaction with his audience through story-telling and easy humor.

While he plays an acoustic violin, Kenny pushes the boundaries of a traditional solo instrumentalist by employing computer technology and layered recordings (his own) to enhance and enrich the live musical experience for his listeners. The result is an emotional, artistic ride of a show, replete with a wide range of musical genres–from renaissance to jazz, Celtic to Americana, etc.

Kenny has been a founder and member of several performing groups and has played for numerous symphonies and theater pit orchestras throughout the Northeast. His music has been heard in film, television, radio and several recordings, including two PBS travelogues.

In addition to violin, Kenny also plays the guitar and mandolin
professionally, and is an accomplished composer and teacher. He considers original music to be an integral part of his own
performance, and has composed extensively for live theater. Kenny wrote, produced and performed an educational show for children entitled, Paganini's Bouncing Bow, which has proved to be a great success at schools throughout New England.


My fascination with the violin began more than 35 years ago. As a child, I watched the 1939 movie, They Shall Have Music, featuring Jascha Heifetz, who is considered by many to be the greatest violinist of the 20th century. This was the first time the violin impacted my life. The way Heifetz played in that movie and the sound that came from his violin had a profound and lasting affect on me. There was purity in his playing, and it seemed effortless. At the same time it passionately expressed all the emotions that I was feeling. I didn't
know music like that existed. It made me want to play--I needed to make those same sounds. Heifetz conveyed emotion through music and I wanted to do the same for others.

I eventually studied under a student of Jascha Heifetz. I did not want to be a replicate of Heifetz, and strove instead to create my own voice. Eventually, Jazz came calling and it's been my primary vehicle of expression since. I've studied and worked hard to understand a range of great musicians and improvisers, among them Stephane Grappelli, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, Paganini, Eric Dolphy, Jimi Hendrix, Dizzy Gillespie and Rev. Gary Davis to name just a few.
This has allowed me to express myself in ways I never thought possible when I began playing as a child. These influences are apparent in my music making, but having found my own authentic voice, they don't dominate it.

As a performer and composer, I love to create music that invokes an emotional response and inspires people to smile and dance while we share the artistic process.

Blog Posts

2011: Jul.

2010: Jan.