Dan Kennedy, from Massachusetts, was drawn to music as a young child, especially classical music. In his words: “When I was very little my mom put on Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird Suite’ and that made an enormous impact on me — the orchestral sound and the variety of musical colors that I could almost see.” He eventually went on to obtain a Bachelor of Music degree at Oberlin Conservatory, in Oberlin, Ohio, where he studied both classical music and jazz piano. He was also a regular performer of improvised piano music at the “Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse,” a student-run performance and meeting place at Oberlin. After graduation, Dan moved to Boston, where he then earned a Master of Music degree (pianos and keyboards) from The New England Conservatory of Music.
He was also inspired early on to compose his own music. In his own words: “I also was always inventing. Composing was very natural to me and I was fortunate to have teachers who were willing to listen to what I was coming up with and encourage me….I took composition lessons from Michael Gandolfi, a highly respected composer who taught me a valuable lesson when he told me to write using my own voice and to block out every other voice or influence.”
In the late 1980’s, Windham Hill piano artists George Winston and Scott Cossu caught Dan’s attention and his creative fires were stoked even more. “I was surprised when I heard George Winston because his music already seemed familiar to me and his success in the marketplace was encouraging.”
Since those early days, Dan has performed throughout New England and across the country and has been awarded numerous grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Currently, his music can be heard on over 200 radio stations around the world, including SiriusXM Satellite Radio and, of course, GAIA Prime Radio. His first recording, “Lantern,” was produced by legendary acoustic guitarist and multiple Grammy Award winner Will Ackerman at Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont.
His music easily reflects jazz, classical, contemporary instrumental, and pop influences, and artfully expresses his own emotions and reactions to life experiences. In his words: “I feel my music is based on pure emotions. That’s what a composer does. They take all of their experiences and feelings, and pour them into their music with the hope that the listener feels the emotional intensity and is affected by it. I really want the listener to get something out of the music whether it is peace, happiness, inspiration, serenity or soul-stirring change.”
Dan’s most recent album, “Bloom Road,” features a widely diverse mix of piano solos and ensemble pieces (with Dan on keyboards). It is definitely NOT an album that could be criticized as lacking variety! Nearly all of the tracks are original compositions, with one exception — the final track is a well-crafted, stylish, and powerful solo piano version of The 1975 hit, “Who Loves You” by The Four Seasons.
Dan is accompanied on “Bloom Road” by various guest artists, including Charles Neville (of the Neville Brothers) on tenor sax, David Rose (formerly of Painted Raven) on Native American flute, and session musician Greg Loughman on bass.
The opening track, “Moonrise,” is a down-tempo, ethereal, mysterious, reflective, and peaceful duet for Native American flute and keyboards (mostly electronic, with some light acoustic toward the end.) Dan says that he chose this track to begin the recording “to let people know right off there will be a variety of styles of music on the album.” He goes on to say: “…And there are so many songs about a sunset, I thought, why not one about a moonrise?”
The title track, which is one of our particular favorites, is similar to the opening track, but with elements contributed by a wide range of instrumentation, not the least of which is Charles Neville on saxophone. David Rose also accompanies on the Native American flute. The result is a complex, layered, haunting, and stylish piano and Native American flute duet, with elements of classical, jazz, and New Age interwoven throughout. Nicely done!
Two other tracks, which are also ensemble pieces, and probably the most creative and distinctive tracks on the album, go in a completely different direction and unabashedly showcase Dan’s jazz influences. “Pop Top,” as the title implies, is a lively, powerful, up-tempo, cheerful, spirited, and “saxophone” and “keyboard” infused groove piece with Neville and Loughman accompanying Kennedy. “Torrent,” which Dan describes as: “a sort of late Miles Davis fusion sound, noisy, like a downpour rain-storm or a raging stream,” is an airy, fast moving, and complex work, featuring heavier synthesizer, and powerful jazz piano, saxophone, and rhythmic percussion that is very reminiscent of some of early days of jazz infused New Age music. It certainly leaves the listener wanting more.
“Sweet Rain, ” which celebrates “the end of a drought,” again features Native American flute as the lead voice, along with piano, synthesizer, drums, bass, and various thunderstorm related sound effects. At times, it also has a similar “smooth jazz” influenced vibe and is also one of our favorites. It even begins with a scratchy record album sound.
“Dulcimer in C Minor” is part of an ongoing series of piano solos Dan has composed intending to mimic the sound and style of music played on a hammer dulcimer. Dan notes that the inspiration for the song was an elderly man he saw dancing by The Thames river in London, with complete abandon, while playing a dulcimer. It is a lively, energetic, bouncy, and cheerful, piano work with clear dulcimer-like background rhythms, and occasional classical and jazz inspired phrasing.
Four other tracks on the album present a compelling collection of creative, distinctive, melodic, expressive, and heartfelt piano solos that easily stand on their own without any need for accompaniment. Another of our particular favorites, “Prayer For Janet” (soulful, mournful) was written as support “for a friend in distress,” and is simply outstanding. Beautiful Day With You” has a light, positive, cheerful, romantic, and energized feel with elements somewhat reminiscent of a classical harpsichord, and at times an “improvisational” piano quality. “Heaven” (slow, haunting) is made memorable by some particularly clever phrasing, and is also one of our particular favorites. “Falling” (darker and more somber) is infused with a contemplative, roaming, searching, dreading, and fearful tone, perhaps expressing reaction to some of life’s more painful experiences.
“A Moment,” which is perhaps the best track on the album, has a style similar to “Dulcimer in C Minor,” but is more melodic, with exquisite piano layered over light synthesizer and strings. Simply beautiful!
In summary, “Bloom Road” is an outstanding album that takes the listener down many diverse musical roads – and with a lot of emotional highs and lows. It would definitely make a nice addition to any contemporary instrumental music collection. For these reasons, we recommend it highly.