A fine pop-jazz keyboardist, trumpeter, and popular attraction on the "contemporary jazz" circuit, Kim Pensyl has recorded a long string of best-selling sets for such labels as Optimism, GRP, and Shanachie. Early on he played a variety of instruments, including trumpet, from age 12 and electric bass in a rock group before settling on keyboards. Pensyl attended Ohio State University, playing with the OSU jazz band. After earning a degree from the Eastman School of Music and attending Cal State Northridge, Pensyl worked in the Los Angeles area with a wide variety of bands including those led by Al Hirt, Don Ellis, Hubert Laws, Gerald Wilson, and Louie Bellson; he even played trumpet with Guy Lombardo. After a few years of studio work, in 1988 (when he began his solo career and recorded his first set as a leader) Pensyl had his style together, playing what could be called atmospheric lite jazz.
Released in 1988, 1989, and 1990, Pensyl Sketches, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3 all sold quite well; the former two sets were recorded with Pensyl as the only musician. During the remainder of the ‘90s and into the new millennium, Pensyl began throwing a few curve balls at his listeners, including 1993’s piano-synth holiday outing A Kim Pensyl Christmas; 1996’s Under the Influence, with Pensyl interpreting some of his pop and R&B favorites; 1998’s Quiet Cafe, which brought his trumpet playing more to the fore; and 2001’s At the Moment, which found Pensyl taking on the mantle of trumpeter even more strongly, in a hard bop setting. Released in 2008, When Katie Smiles featured Pensyl at the Steinway for a set of smooth jazz-influenced originals. ~ Scott Yanow