The ability to paint vivid, emotionally evocative, substantive soundscapes with a musical instrument requires considerable talent. In his fourth album release, “Mountains Made of Shadow, Anthems Made of Light,” solo pianist Dan Kennedy shares with us not only his incredibly adept piano playing, but his impressive composition talents as well.
Classically trained at two of the top conservatories in the world, Dan holds a Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) from Oberlin Conservatory, and a Master’s of Music (M.M. with Hon.) from New England Conservatory of Music. This education and training shines through in every note here. Dan’s structures, skills, and techniques are outstanding.
In “Mountains Made of Shadow, Anthems Made of Light,” Massachusetts based Kennedy brings us a resplendent relaxation album of almost one hour; a delightful, shimmering tapestry combining the richness and depths of both shadow and light found in all of life. If we pay attention to such things, we can appreciate both shadow and light dancing gracefully together across mountains creating a fascinating, ever changing vista. If you don’t happen to have a mountain view outside your window, it’s okay. The music will transport you effectively to that place. That is the feel of this album that enchantingly captures both the highs and lows of life as well as the richness of the nuances in between.
With a modern solo piano style comparable to that of Jim Brickman, Dan Kennedy has been a performing musician since the 1980s. He has also taught music, theory, composition, and percussion to every age group and level since 1995. His music is popular on over two-hundred radio stations, including Sirius XM Satellite Radio, as well as Pandora and Spotify.
The album opens to “Chilly Morning,” where we can almost feel in our very bones an underlying and quite sustained chill, yet a warm, toasty fire before us at the very same time, completely removing any enduring edge and easing our spirits. The song opens us to the softly glowing promise of the day and to the rest of this superb album.
“Give It All Away,” track 2, is particularly captivating and is a specific favorite of mine on the album. Full of intricacies and passionate emotion, this well composed and perfectly played piece, with its charming melody, is also elegant, uplifting, and supremely soul-soothing.
The sweet, emotional, and passionate, “Wintergreen,” is track 3. “Wintergreen” is an exquisitely beautiful and emotionally moving piece with a gracefully flowing melody that stays in your heart and mind long after the song ends.
Track 4, the luscious “Backstory,” is a gorgeous song. Here we feel like we are fluid phantasm, frolicking effortlessly and timelessly through the peaks and valleys of life.
Upbeat, playful, yet also supremely beautiful, “Souvenirs,” track 5, is one to play over and over again. It will stick in your head, like precious memorabilia collected along the way.
Track 6 is the dreamy, sentimental piece, “After the Heartache is Gone.” With its poignant, heart-felt melody, softly crushed notes, and breath-like caesuras, this song is alive, delightful, and refreshing, reminding us to breathe in new life.
There is so much to love even after this, such as the pleasant and engaging “California,” and the equally engaging, “Ennio,” which is charming as well with its warm synth strings underneath a thoughtful melody.
In “Wildflower,” track 9, we can possibly imagine what it would be like to be a wildflower ourselves. This piece is my ultimate favorite on the album, not only for its lovely, uplifting melody, but for its structure and composition.
The fast moving, energetic, “Implying Flying” on track 10 is an exciting piece filled with fascinating nuances that make us feel as if we are truly soaring.
Slowing things down a bit with the anthem quality of “Allelu” on track 11, prompts us, perhaps, to be reverent and grateful of the awesome grace that shines upon us throughout our journey here.
It’s almost sad to say goodbye to this album on any level, but the last track, “The Fire Within,” sums it all up quite nicely, and we know we can always return. Expressive, and focused mainly in the lower registers of the piano, we are somehow reminded that we are the warmth and the light. We are alive. We have all that we need to pass through the shadows. And the fire of the gift life burns passionately and perpetually in us all.
Like a finely cut diamond, “Mountains Made of Shadow, Anthems Made of Light” by Dan Kennedy is a glorious and brilliant addition to any solo piano album collection. Highly recommended.