CD Reviews



“A talented jazz pianist with a melodic and swinging style, Debbie Denke recently released her latest CD, It’s All About YOU!. While it makes for a very enjoyable listening experience, she also conceived of this recording as a party game.

First Ms. Denke asked her musician friends, associates and fans for songs that had the word YOU in the title. After evaluating over 800 YOU tunes, she settled on the 16 that are on her new CD. Debbie recorded concise versions of the standards and then wrote clues for each of the songs. The result is a “name that tune” contest that would be perfect for a jazz party competition.

Beyond the contest, It’s All About YOU! makes for a fine hour of listening. Among the highlights are a tender and wistful interpretation of “I Remember You,” an uptempo “There Will Never Be Another You” that sometimes hints at Teddy Wilson, a slow and emotional “I Loves You Porgy,” an orchestral sounding version of “I Get A Kick Out Of You” that during its second half swings wittily like Erroll Garner and a hard-swinging “I Thought About You.” Whether it is a pretty version of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” an extensive improvisation on “You Don’t Know What Love Is” or “All Of You” (which displays some rich chord voicings), these versions keep the melody close by, swing easily, and are full of subtle creativity. “Embraceable You,” which is inspired by Debbie’s father’s transcription of Erroll Garner’s thoughtful playing, is given a fresh arrangement. The closing performance, “It Had To Be You,” features the pianist taking her only vocal of the date while accompanied by bassist Robert Kim Collins and drummer Bones Howe.

Debbie Denke had classical music training from an early age. Her father (and teacher) Frank Denke  helped her gain her first musical jobs, playing piano and organ at churches in the San Francisco Bay area starting when she was 15. She earned a B.A. and a M.A. in Piano Performance from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her college years Debbie often played jazz in coffee houses and clubs.

Since then she has evolved into an important educator who teaches improvisation, jazz theory, and composition, and the author of several books on keyboard improvisation. Based in Santa Barbara, Debbie Denke performs regularly in a variety of settings including as a solo jazz pianist, with groups, as a singer, and as a vocal accompanist. For the future she plans to record jazz renditions of the works of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and other classical composers, and she is planning a CD featuring her jazz versions of traditional hymns and spirituals.

It’s All About YOU! is Debbie Denke’s latest accomplishment. This fun music is equally satisfying as the plot of a jazz party or for close listening. For more information, please look at or contact the pianist at”
–Scott Yanow, Jazz Journalist/Author/Historian/Reviewer

“Absolutely charming!” –Kei Akagi

“LOOOVE IT! So cool I have you on my iPhone to hear anytime I want!” –Suzanne McFarland

“The CD just arrived! Listening to it… it’s beautiful. I love the vocals! More, more! Blossom Dearie…” – Margie Nelson

“Beautiful playing, Debbie. Thank you!” – Rick Perl

“What a fantastic album. Great job! The playing, recording quality, arrangements and packaging are first class.” – Tony Marino

“Oh, wow … I absolutely loved the CD. I found myself singing along! Thank you again for the most amazing gift of your music.” –Paul D.

More Rave Reviews and Recommendations

“Debbie is one of the most talented musicians I have ever known. The books she publishes are top of the line. I highly recommend any of her books to any aspiring pianist. She can also make a party, occasion, wedding, or any celebration come to life with her beautiful piano arrangements. I highly recommend Debbie for your next holiday party or occasion.” –Jan Hahka, business owner/musician

“I use Debbie’s jazz piano books with my piano students at Westmont College – they are the best!” –John Douglas, adjunct music instructor, Westmont College

“I’ve known Debbie Denke for 25 years. Her work has always been of the highest caliber and I would recommend her both as a teacher and a professional pianist.” –Chris Judge, owner, Chris Judge Music

“I’ve known Debbie for some 25 years and she is one of the best pianists in the area, excelling in many different genres. I’ve attended many of her performances over the last 25 years and I always went away impressed and amazed at her talent. I’ve been priveledged to have her as a teacher, both in the local college and in private. I was always impressed by her wealth of knowledge and teaching skills. I have also had the opportuninty to read several of her instructional books which contained concepts that were well thought out, organized, and easily understood. I believe she is a extremely gifted teacher, arranger, and author. I myself have been playing piano in the church setting for some 30 years and I am looking forward to Debbie’s new book on Christian Worship. I’m quite confident her tips and techniques will prove to be most helpful to many of us.” –David DiSalvo, church pianist at Santa Barbara Free Methodist Church

“I can’t recommend Debbie Denke highly enough. She’s one of the best musicians in Southern California with excellent teaching skills and is an outstanding author. I have her book, “The Aspiring Jazz Pianist” and it’s an invaluable tool to not only aspiring improvisation pianists, but musicians in general. In a word, she’s amazing.” –Donna Greene, performer with Donna Greene & The Roadhouse Daddies

“Debbie has inspired and encouraged me as a professional musician both in role as a teacher of jazz and author of two outstanding books on how to play jazz. I have extensive experience and training in music including lessons for over 50 years from many teachers. I never found anyone who could clearly explain, illustrate and demonstrate how to play jazz as well as classical and inspirational church and wedding music. Debbie provides a unique gift of showing students the essence of each music style, especially when they have not had prior experience with that medium, be it jazz, popular or inspirational. She has designed outstanding etudes to exhibit whatever style she is teaching. She also designs highly original exercises that enable the student to gain the proficiency to confidently perform.” –Michael Conaway, musician

“Debbie Denke is one of the best music instructors I have ever had the good fortune to work with. Her knowledge of her subject is superlative and her communication skills are both engaging and effective. I am a professional vocalist and Debbie’s abilities as a sensitive and knowledgeable accompanist are only matched by her refined musical intuition. Debbie is an absolute gem to both study with and to work with and I highly recommend her. I have also studied piano from the three books Debbie currently has in print and find them excellent resources, easy to follow and highly instructive.” –Kimberly Ford, musician

“Debbie is an accomplished pianist with the exceptional ability to professionally play all styles and the social capacity to truly be a team player in any ensemble. I give her my highest recommendation. Her new book will be a treasure for any church worship ministry.” –Doug Ranck, Associate Pastor of Youth and Worship, Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara

“Debbie is a gifted pianist and music educator. Her composing and performing experience encompasses a wide variety of styles. Debbie’s several clear, well-written books are valuable to all musicians, and invaluable to pianists. As a non-pianist musician, I am really looking forward to her next book!” –Mark Coffin, Musician

“Debbie stands out as among the best musicians in California, transforming an audience into wildly enthusiastic lovers of jazz!” –Hal Conklin, political leader

“Debbie is a quality musician and person. She not only is an accomplished pianist and composer, but is an excellent teacher and author. I recommend her highly!” –Rev. Dr. Dennis Wayman

“It is my pleasure to recommend Debbie Denke! I was lucky enough to have worked with Debbie and her husband Kim, playing guitar in their band Wingspan a few years back. Debbie is a superb pianist with great depth of expression and musical knowledge. Her instruction books/methods are among the best that I have seen. She is a great musician and a delightful person to work with!” –George F. Quirin, featured soloist, performer

“Debbie is a gifted musical artist, whose music uplifts and inspires. She has composed several musical selections and is able to play classical, jazz, bebop, liturgical, and many other types of music on the piano. Her performances are breathtaking, and her piano improvisation classes always have a waiting list. I’m very excited about her latest work and recommend her highly. She’s a treasure!” –Sydney Bush, Diabetes Nurse Educator, Cottage Health System