CD: Bloom Road
Artist: Dan Kennedy

Bloom Road (cover) - Dan KennedyBloom Road is the latest release from pianist/composer Dan Kennedy and is the follow up to his excellent Intuition CD which I had the pleasure of writing about back in 2012. Although Dan is classically trained and earned a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, his style is diverse and inclusive, blending classical, jazz, contemporary instrumental, and new age.


Dan was drawn to music as a young child, particularly 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.” In his training, Dan learned pieces by Bach, Debussy, and others, but also felt inspired to create his own compositions. He goes on to say: “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.” Fast-forward to the late 80’s when Windham Hill piano artists like George Winston and Scott Cossu caught Dan’s attention and sparked his creative fires. Incidentally, Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman produced Dan’s earlier recording,  Lantern Dan also studied jazz piano and cites one of the greatest ever, McCoy Tyner (a member of the legendary John Coltrane Quartet) as a major influence. Readers who are interested in learning more about Dan’s history and musical background can check out the link to my write up of his Intuition album for further information.


It’s been a long and winding road that has led Dan to this present stage in his music career, so Dan Kennedythe title of his new album is quite appropriate. As he shares: “The idea of a road is really appealing to me, as though you’re really traveling somewhere, combined with the idea of blooming, which for me, means maybe getting a little closer to your soul, following what your soul wants you to follow, and those are the main ideas I explored with this record. Bloom Road is really a variety of experiences. There are a lot of highs and lows here and it’s quite emotional.  It’s my most personal record to date.”


The album opens with an interesting surprise. While Dan is known primarily as a pianist, on this track, entitled “Moonrise,” he begins with a lush soundtrack of synthesizer orchestration that serves as background for the earthy yet airy sounds of Native American flute. His collaborator here is award-winning flutist David Rose, whose sensitive and soulful sounds give wings to the song. Dan 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: “As the opening track, we decided to make it with a rather cinematic feel, so you almost feel like you’re in the opening of a movie, and I thought that was a fun way to start things off…And there are so many songs about a sunset, I thought, why not one about a moonrise?”


From there, he transits into the solo piano style he is best known for on a haunting and hope-filled tune entitled “Prayer For Janet,” written for a friend who was in distress. Following up on his promise to deliver an album of diverse musical styles, a track called “Sweet Rain” is a lively romp that once again features the Native flute of David Rose in a context that includes drums, bass, and sounds of rain and thunder. Elements of smooth jazz, contemporary instrumental, and pop combine to create a foot-tapping tune that would make a perfect cruising-down-the-highway song. (see video below) This is followed by three lovely solo piano pieces, including “Falling,” “Beautiful Day (With You),” and “Dulcimer In C Minor.” Although this last one is played on piano, Dan describes it in this way: “I have a series of pieces I call my Dulcimer Pieces, the first of which “Dulcimer in G” has been in rotation on Sirius XM radio for 5 years. In these I try to imitate the sound of the hammer dulcimer.”


Dan and Charles Neville

Dan and Charles Neville

A bit of Eastern influence is felt on a tune called “A Moment” of which Dan says: “This work is a tip of the hat to the Buddhist philosophy of being in the moment. It’s a little bit of “Zen and the art of new age music.” It’s a lovely piece with the sound of cello and strings augmenting the piano. The album’s title track is a real stand out composition that features a very special guest, saxophonist Charles Neville of the world-renowned Neville Brothers. In addition to his band of brothers, Charles has played with B.B. King, James Brown, Ray Charles, and numerous other classic R&B acts. On working with Charles, Dan had this to say: “He’s somebody who was able to very quickly understand these songs, and when he arrived at the recording studio, neither the engineer or I had to say anything, he just put on the headphones and blew us away.” Additionally, the track also features David Rose on Native flute, as well as the sounds of strings, bass, and cymbals. I particularly enjoyed the lively kalimba-like percussive groove that propelled certain sections of the song.


Charles also appears on the next track, the gospel-flavored “Pop Top,” as well as a tune called “Torrent,” which Dan describes as: “a sort of late Miles Davis fusion sound, noisy, like a downpour rain-storm or a raging stream.” I especially enjoy the jazzy side of Dan’s musical spectrum, which makes an interesting yin/yang contrast to his more reflective solo piano work. As mentioned at the beginning of this feature article, Dan’s playing covers a lot of ground, both musically and emotionally and it is important to him that his music is a vehicle for this kind of heartfelt expression. 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 Dan in concertwith 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 Kennedy is a highly talented musician with a well-tuned ear for melody and composition. While his solo piano songs reflect this clearly, his ensemble pieces also highlight Dan’s finely honed skills as an arranger. I appreciate his 30 years of experience in the new age music genre, as much as his willingness to push the boundaries and integrate other influences as well. Bloom Road provides a lovely stroll through an exquisite garden of musical delights that should appeal to a wide audience.