Afflictions & Remedies
2015 / Joe Kenney
Review by Kathy Parsons
Afflictions & Remedies is the debut solo piano album by Joe Kenney, a twenty-five year old artist with eclectic musical influences. A classically-trained pianist who has won piano competitions, Kenney is also a very versatile jazz and blues player. He calls his first album “jazz/blues/soul piano music,” and there are definitely some classical influences in there as well. He says of the album: “To me, it is a personal introspective about breaking free from spiritual, mental, and emotional imprisonment and overcoming adversity. Inspiration includes battling mental illness and a young love that ended in marriage then divorce after two years. Despite the severity of the content/inspiration, I joke with my friends that is a best-of collective in the form of a debut album, in that the earliest song was composed 10 years ago in high school, and the latest tune was composed three days before recording.” To say that this description intrigued me is an understatement and the music itself does not disappoint in any way. Jazz is such a huge category these days that calling this a jazz piano album only tells part of the story. More complex than many smooth jazz albums and more structured than many free-form jazz recordings, Kenney has created eight pieces that convey the spirit of improvisation while remaining melodic and accessible to a wide audience.
Afflictions & Remedies begins with “Coming Through,” a piece that feels slow and effortless until you really listen to the complexity of the chords and rhythms. A very impressive start! “Interjections Of An Awakened Soul” is a bit more free-form with a shot of blues added for some very soulful playing. “Remedy” is much softer and more reflective. The right hand melody is almost conversational, telling its story without words getting in the way. “Unchained The Beast” is a favorite. Bluesy with an element of funk as well as some strong Baroque influences, it’s a fascinating piece and a must-hear! I also really like “A Critical Departure,” a multi-themed piece that begins as kind of a ballad with a very strong melody and bluesy feel that evolves into more of a soul style. The third theme picks up the tempo with a driving beat and intoxicating rhythm that abruptly quiets and soothes. Another amazing piece! “The Hard Way” cools things down a bit and takes us to the end of this impressive album enveloped in soft shades of blue and gray.
Joe Kenney is off to a great start with a very promising career! Afflictions & Remedies is available from his website as well as Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Strongly recommended!
June 5, 2015