Second-generation Ukrainian-American creative improvising saxophonist Kenny Millions was born Kenneth Keshavan Maslak in Detroit, MI, on February 26, 1947, and grew up in one of the ethnic neighborhoods that surround the inner city. His Ukrainian grandfather played music reflective of his Slavic folk heritage, and upon listening to the jazz and rhythm & blues players in Detroit such as Yusef Lateef and Junior Walker, he distilled these elements into his own style. He studied at the legendary Cass Tech High School, a spawning ground for many of the best modern players who emerged from the scene and headed for New York City. Maslak went to another prime school for jazz academics, North Texas State University; during this time he formed his own band and participated in a Southern tour by Motown artists. After a fateful meeting with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, he was one of the few saxophonists to sit in with the legendary multi-instrumentalist.
Maslak moved to San Francisco upon graduation from North Texas State and connected with drummer Charles Moffett, whose stint with Ornette Coleman had recently ended. Moffett and Maslak collaborated in Oakland with new up-and-coming players Ray Anderson and David Murray. After a performance in 1972 with Moffett in New York City, Maslak decided to stay there, where he worked with Coleman; Sam Rivers; Sunny Murray; a young bassist from Royal Oak, MI, John Lindberg; and Burton Greene. The trio of Maslak, Murray, and Lindberg played on Maslak's acclaimed LP Loved by Millions. But America did not love the freewheeling style of jazz Maslak wanted to play, so he fled the U.S. in 1978 for a better musical climate in Amsterdam, Holland. There he was able to work more extensively around Europe and collaborate with members of the Dutch jazz community, including Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, and Loek Dikker. Mengelberg and Bennink joined with the saxophonist to record perhaps the most well-received album of Maslak's career, Humanplexity. Maslak was also a member of the formidable improvisers collective the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, and recorded overseas for the Leo and Challenge labels.
He became known for his stage theatrics, playing saxophone on his back, utilizing overblowing techniques on a variety of woodwind instruments, exploiting comedic devices, and interpreting standards in a most unconventional manner. But he returned to the metropolitan New York City area in 1981, changed his stage name to Kenny Millions, and formed an electric free jazz ensemble with Charles Moffett and his son, electric bass guitarist Charnett Moffett. This band, dubbed Loved by Millions, found itself in the M-Base scene of amplified jazz groups that used funk and odd meters in a different and unique way. By 1986, Millions found his way to Miami, FL, which has been his home base ever since. With his wife, he founded the Hollywood, FL, nightclub the Sushi Blues Café, performing regularly as a solo artist and with occasional special guests on weekends in a presentation he calls Mr. Florida's Avant-Blues Show. Millions has toured on infrequent occasions, has performed and recorded back in Detroit at the Bohemian National Home, and did stateside dates with Han Bennink in 2007. His recordings, some of them reissues, are available on the Hum Ha label, and include collaborations with Paul Bley, Katsuyuki Itakura, and Sabu Toyozumi. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi