Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Keren, Zvi

Zvi Keren was a New York-born Israeli pianist, musicologist and composer.

Father - Charles Kirshenbaum, born 1889 in Poland. Came to U.S.A. 1909. Died 1958.

Mother - Sara Samalman, born in 1891 in Poland. Came to U.S.A. 1909. Died in Israel 1981.

Zvi Keren was born Howard Ralph Kirshenbaum in 1917 in New York City, U.S.A. Only child of Charles and Sara. After 1951 he lived in Israel, where he changed his name to Zvi Keren and passed away on October 27, 2008.

His children are Shoshanna, born in Israel 1957; Ziviah; born in England in 1959; and Alona, born in Israel in 1962. Shoshanna has 4 children, all born in Israel. Ziviah - no children. Alona - 2 children, born in Israel.

Zvi Keren's mother was an amateur "classical" pianist. His daughter, Alona, is a professional musician (pianist) and musicologist specializing in jazz, who teaches at Bar-Ian Univ.

Zvi Keren started to learn piano at the age of 7. In high school he started to play popular songs. A record of Fats Waller and his rhythm attracted him to jazz, and he decided to make music his profession. He resumed serious piano study (1935-36) with Nadia Riesenberg (Teddy Wilson's teacher) and studied composition and theory (1939-43) with Joseph Schillinger, who authorized him personally to teach his system.

Favorite pianists: Billy Kyle, AI Haig, Andre Previn, Bob James.

University Degrees:

B. S - New York Univ.

M.A - Columbia Univ.

Ph.D. - London Univ.

Professional activities in the U.S.A:

Pianist and arranger with bands (Reggie Childs, Ray Kinney).

Accompanist and coach of singers (jazz and popular).

Arranger for bands, night-club acts and singers.

Teacher of arranging and composition in schools and privately.

Teacher of piano technique.

Pianist in New York night-clubs and hotels.

Pianist for television station WPIX, New York City.

Conductor-pianist for U. S.O (United Service Organization) during World War II.

Professional activities in Israel:

Appearances as pianist, composer and arranger on radio and television.

Pianist in night-clubs.

Arranger and composer for the light-music orchestra of the Israeli radio broadcasting station.

Chairman of Israeli Arrangers Union for 5 consecutive years.

Professor in the Department of Musicology at Bar-Ilan University.

Taught jazz composition at the music academy of Tel-Aviv University.

Author of a book, Contemporary Israeli Music, published by the Bar-Ilan University press.

Most sought after private teacher of professional pianists and arrangers.

His composition "Rabbi Issac Said" for mixed chorus, vibraphone, piano, cello and percussion appeared on an LP record on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Department of Musicology at Bar-Ilan University.

As an arranger and teacher, he figures prominently in the spread of jazz appreciation and in the establishment of jazz education in Israel.

He was the first in Israel to give jazz courses ("Introduction to Jazz" and "Jazz Composition") at an Israeli university.

He was the first composer in Israel to compose original jazz pieces for orchestra which were broadcast ("Electronic Brain," "Riot in Russia," "Regards to Igor" and others).

A review of Keren's eighty-year career and many contributions to the Israeli jazz scene can be found in an interview and article written by his daughter Alona for M i n - A d: Israel Studies in Musicology Online.