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Canadian Heritage

Bernie Senensky


BERNIE SENENSKY (pianist, composer) was born December 31, 1944 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and has been a resident of Toronto since 1968. Recognized as one of Canada’s premier jazz artists, Senensky’s playing and his music have been featured in jazz festivals internationally. Since 1975, he has released a number of albums, two of which were nominated for Juno Awards.

Senensky began playing piano at the age of eight, settling into his interest in jazz when he was 14, studying with Winnipeg jazz eminence Bob Erlendson. He began sitting in with local Winnipeg groups which included guitarist Lenny Breau and bassist Dave Young, eventually taking his considerable talent to Edmonton. His work leading a house band with the Holiday Inn Hotel chain eventually took him to Toronto where he took up residence in 1968, quickly establishing himself as an accompanist playing for and with a wide variety of visiting musicians including Pepper Adams, Chet Baker, Ed Bickert, Terence Blanchard, Ruby Braff, Randy Brecker, Al Cohn, George Coleman, Buddy DeFranco, Herb Ellis, Art Farmer, Sonny Greenwich, Slide Hampton, Herbie Mann, Frank Morgan, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dizzy Reese, Red Rodney, Jack Sheldon, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Lew Tabackin, Clark Terry, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Williams, and Phil Woods.

He has recorded with many important jazz artists, played in piano duets with Oscar Peterson and Marian McPartland, and performed with major name bands and ensembles including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass, the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, the Elvin Jones Quartet, and the Herbie Mann/Al Grey All-Star Septet.

He formed his own trio in the early ‘70s, and began occupying the piano chair in The Moe Koffman Quintet in 1979 when the band was the number one small jazz combo in Canada. He had played with Moe on occasion prior to that and “was always impressed with his utter musicality and his complete mastery of the flute, alto, and soprano saxophones”. As part of The Moe Koffman Quintet, Senensky ultimately had the opportunity to contribute many of his own compositions to the band’s repertoire for more than twenty years, and continues to keep the memory and the music of Moe Koffman alive today as leader of his Tribute to Moe Koffman Band.

As a leader, Senensky has released a number of albums. His debut album, New Life, was released in 1976. Senesky recorded The Chalet Session with bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Barry Elmes in 1989. His septet recording Re-Action, was released in 1991. Homeland was released in 1994 and featured American musicians Gary Bartz, bass; Harvie Schwartz, bass, and Arkia Tana, drums. His 1996 album, recorded at the Top 'O the Senator in Toronto in 1993, features bassist Jim Vivian, and drummer Bob Moses. In 1999, he released New Horizons, which features trumpeter Eddie henderson and saxophonist Kirk MacDonald.His 2011album Invitation, featured bassist Gene Perla and drummer Ben Riley.

Also adept on the Hammond B3 Organ, Senesky joined forces with saxophonist Ryan Oliver, guitarist Nathan Hiltz, and drummer Morgan Childs to form Organic. The group has played a weekly Sunday night gig at Joe Mama's for a number of years and the group released Live at Joe Mama's in 2013.


1989 - JUNO nomination as 'Jazz Album of the Year' - Friday the 14th
1993 - JUNO nomination as 'Jazz Album of the Year' - Wheel Within a Wheel