Reflections on Inner Transformation
2022 / Joe Kenney
Review by Kathy Parsons
Reflections on Inner Transformation is a collection of sixteen original piano solos that represent points of inner growth that Joe Kenney has been "trying to develop as an individual who values working hard on becoming my best self." Obviously a very personal album, the music is eclectic and is reflective of Kenney's classical, jazz, and new age background as well as other influences and life experiences. Reflections on Inner Transformation is Kenney's fifth studio album, starting with his 2015 debut, Afflictions and Remedies. All of the titles of the pieces on the album begin with "Reflection" and their sequence from 1-16, followed by the name of the point of inner growth being expressed in that piece. Despite the diversity in the points and how they are expressed in music, the album flows as a very cohesive whole. It's a fascinating album that reveals more of itself with each listen, so don't expect to "get it" completely the first time around.
Reflections on Inner Transformation begins with "Courage," a quietly pensive piece that feels improvisational. Kenney calls it "an ode to what has led here, and a struggle with allowing the reality of the soul searching and work on the horizon." "Grace (Libby's Lullaby)" is a favorite and "encapsulates the lifting of a spirit in a journey to another realm." Free yet purposeful, I love the heartfelt expression in this piece. "Connection" is almost conversational - direct, honest and unforced. "Commitment" is one of the more classically-styled pieces with an expressive melody and varying degrees of intensity throughout. "Respite" is straight-ahead piano jazz that playfully expresses happiness as it dances all over the piano keyboard. "Dynamism" is another favorite. It begins with a gently-flowing and beautifully expressive melody that seems to be in search of something - perhaps within. Very gradually, the music builds intensity and moves in several colorful directions, always looking forward with grace and optimism. "Depth (Dakota's Dance)" is something of a jazz waltz that begins simply, building in complexity while maintaining a sunny, joyful outlook. (It's very much how I feel when the sun comes out here on the Oregon Coast!) "Compassion" is another favorite with its reminder "that being there for others is at the core value of elevating personal components of ourselves." Gentle and uncomplicated, I hear a reminder in the music that we should often just listen to what others have to say with an open heart as well as an open mind. "Discovery" is bold and dynamic with a sense of adventure and anticipation. Its varied and colorful themes take the music in several directions that are full of fun and excitement. "Presence" is one of the more ambient tracks and makes lovely use of space as well as notes in a thoughtful interplay that reminds us to appreciate the moment. "Expansion" is my favorite piece on the album and clearly demonstrates Kenney's mastery of the piano. The rippling notes under the more subdued melody are gorgeous and give a strong sense of movement and action as well as growth. The last track on the album is "Transcendence (For Florence)," a composition dedicated to Kenney's late grandmother (Florence) who loved classical music. Elegant and heartfelt, I'm sure Florence loves this tribute from her loving grandson!
Reflections on Inner Transformation is a very enjoyable and satisfying listening experience as well as an impressive source of inspiration! The album is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Bandcamp and streaming sites such as Spotify.
June 8, 2022