Brian Keenan, piano
CD review by Jack Rummel
(printed in the November 1998 issue of "The Rag Times").
Marilyn / Colorado Panorama / Harriet Island / Aura of Indigo / Crosby Farm / Hidden Falls / When the Work Is Done, I'll Dance / Lake Country Ballad / Carter.
Many of the new releases have become harder to define these days, and the latest compact disc by Brian Keenan is a case in point. Is it Ragtime? Is it New World Music? Is it Terra Terde? Is it syncopated salon music? The answer is: Yes. As a reviewer, however, I should be most concerned with only one question: Is it music of quality? The answer is: Most definitely! The thread that ties these varied compositions together is Romance. Nothing is fast or loud; these introspective pieces are programmed to ensnare your intellect and, ultimately, to win your heart.
This is not to be construed as background music, but it is appropriate music to share with your beloved and the setting could easily be augmented with some candlelight and a bottle of wine. Keenan has programmed his own compositions interspersed with works by his contemporaries. Thus the CD opens with a slow and delicate classic rag by Ireland's Colm O'Brien (Marilyn) and pauses part way along to explore a slow, densely colored rag by California's Fred Hoeptner (Aura of Indigo) and a lively ragtime waltz by Colorado's Jack Rummel (When the Work Is Done, I'll Dance).
The remaining titles are Keenan originals. He refers to the disc's content as "an overview of New World piano music", cautiously eschewing the narrower pigeonholes of Ragtime and Terra Verde; a wise choise of words, for his compositions run the gamut. Colorado Panorama is an amorous rag and my personal favorite. An optimistic Harriet Island follows the classic rag format but juxtaposes an habanera bass under a non-Latin melody. Crosby Farm and Hidden Falls are somber, minor-tinged opuses that blur the distinction between what some would call ragtime and others might term terra verde. The former invokes the habaņera rhythm, the latter does not; both are hauntingly beautiful. In Lake Country Ballad, Keenan expands the traditional rag structure with extra measures, alternative rhythms and lyrical melodies. Carter, an elegiac rag honoring a family member lost in combat, closes this lushly romantic recording.
Brian Keenan is a voice to be reckoned with. As a performer, his touch is assured and his performance is unerring. As a composer, he is writing folk rags, classic rags and terra verde pieces that are both lyrical and memorable. Don't buy this disc if you favor loud, mile-a-minute pianistics. But if you want a thoughtful and inspirational record by one of today's rising stars, this CD will surely be a delight.