Road to Wailea
'This self-produced disc by Sean J. Kennedy is an impressive collection of compositions that feature some solid players from the Philadelphia area. Kennedy composed all the songs and they present a well rounded musician who not only has command of the drums but has a thorough understanding of melody and style. The first track is a funky blues piece 'Boogaloo Sub' that features some fine saxophone work by Gary Zimmaro on Alto, and Erin Stroup on tenor. Larry McKenna on tenor makes 'Aidan's Midnight Ride' a soul-full and swinging track that is personally one of my favorites. McKenna's treatment of the melody is flawless, and it travels well flowing right over the rhythm section's solid groove. When McKenna delivers the solo you are drawn into song and from that point on it owns you. Jim Sullivan keeps you swinging throughout the piece. Overall a solid composition executed by a group of players who are very tight. 'Ashley and Juliet' another one of Kennedy's tribute-titled songs is sweet and simple. The simplicity allowing Kennedy to showcase yet another solid tenor player, Ed Mount. Mount is another player who treats the composition with the sensitivity that Kennedy had in mind when he wrote it. 'Jim's Wall' catches you by surprise after 'Ashley and Juliet'. The piece is a Brazilian beat swing piece that takes off with power right out of the first bar and keeps you moving the entire time. All three of the sax players come together to make this excellent composition a powerful piece. 'What Would Ed Do?' again features Zimmaro on alto and Stroup on Tenor. This piece is another example of Kennedy's good sense of melody and demonstrates that this group can swing. You are off and swinging again with this cut. Kennedy shifts gears on 'Exit 29'. Here he delivers a modal treatment of a haunting melody. Zimmaro takes up the flute and Stroup the soprano sax for this cut. Visions of Coltrane dance in your head. Stroup opens it up for Zimmaro and Zimmaro takes it to another level, grooving through the solo with selected notes and perfect timing. Kennedy follows 'Exit 29' with another flute and soprano song, 'Maddie n' Chee Chee'. This number is has an almost Cuban beat inspired groove to it. Zimmaro is again the man who delivers the goods on this composition. 'Candy Hearts (Heather Ann's Song)' takes the tempo down a notch or two and takes on an almost sunset, or evening's end mood. This song is interpreted soulfully by McKenna in the initial bars but just when you settle into that mood, it explodes into a swinging fully expressive mode. Kennedy holds a solid beat for the rhythm section while McKenna explores all the territory available in the changes. The title piece 'Road to Wailea' is one of the most expressive and energetic cuts on the disc. Zimmaro on flute and Stroup on soprano again, along with Mount on tenor allow for a broad range of dynamic treatment of the changes in this composition. The underlying intensity surges up from the rhythms at points to reach critical mass and as quickly recedes back down to pulsing grooves in transition. All the soloist in this piece deliver solid and thoroughly impressive performances. Kennedy was fortunate to have been able to bring this talent together to express his compositions. All in all, 'Road to Wailea' is an excellent compilation of some solid compositions executed flawlessly by some truly talented musicians. An enjoyable listening experience that has enough color in the palette to avoid boredom, and yet is solidly held together by good instrument choices and sensitive treatment of the themes. I highly recommend this disc for the listener looking for something creatively new, but built on solid foundations of traditional jazz. Kennedy should be commended for his composing, and his playing skills but mostly for pulling together a killer ensemble to bring his songs to life. -Reviewed by: Chuck Vecoli for Jazzreview.com THE BUZZ: 'I enjoyed your CD and thought it was quite good...keep up the good work!' -Joe Morello Legendary drummer with the Dave Brubeck Quartet ============ 'I really enjoyed drummer and composer Sean J. Kennedy's new CD 'Road to Wailea' His compositions are highly enjoyable! The compositions Seán wrote for members of his family I found most enjoyable and being a family man myself can identify with the sentiment found in each of the compositions. Whether it's a straight ahead rhythm, Latin beat or Funk groove, drummer and composer Seán Kennedy and the fine musicians on this CD take you on a great musical journey as they travel down the 'Road to Wailea!' -Eric Mintel The Eric Mintel Quartet ============ 'Sean is emerging as a fine percussionist and composer. I expect to be hearing a lot of excellent music from him in the future.' -Larry McKenna Saxophone - Arranger ============ '...got the CD and it sounds great. Love the compositions, your playing and it's always great to hear Larry. Some people say you are judged by the company you keep and you keep great company. Congrats on a great project!!' -Denis DiBlasio Jazz reedman Jazz Studies Chairperson Rowan Univeristy ============ '...I enjoyed it...You really wrote some great tunes...' -Mark Summer, cello The Turtle Island String Quartet ============ 'Congratulations. You're doing something that is really enterprising, and that is: presenting your own music and vision of it, making it available not only to your audience but to potential colleagues, contacts, etc. I applaud the fact that you're writing your own material and producing your own work.' -Peter Erskine Legendary jazz drummer ============ 'I thought it sounded real good!...you have a good feel!!!' -Tony Miceli Vibist w/ The Philly 5 ============ INTERNATIONAL APPEAL: 'I'm a strong believer in good chemistry, and Seán J. Kennedy's new CD Road to Wailea has a very strong chemistry. And the members (starting with Seán) have just that special blend. The well composed compositions work as a vehicle to bring out the talents of ALL the musicians as a unit. -Tommy Campbell, Drummer AzabuJuban, Tokyo, Japan ============ Biographical info: Born in Philadelphia in 1971, Sean J. Kennedy has fueled the effort behind his recent jazz release, Road to Wailea, with all the flavor one would presume of a diligent, innovative man from the City of Brotherly Love. Waldo the Squid of DRUM! Magazine commented on the savory temptation luring hard-core jazz enthusiasts to Kennedy's versatile musicianship when he suggests, 'There are a lot of onions on this young man's cheesesteak...' Likewise, Sean's varied and impressive career received another recent boost when Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer recommended, '...his intense and sometimes far-out live performances...' as a top pick in it's Best Bets section. With the encouragement and discipline of his parents, Sean started playing the piano at the age of eight. Upon entering high school in 1985, he was drawn to the percussion instruments and received rudimental drumming instruction as a member of the marching band drumline. During this period, he started listening to the recordings of Gene Krupa, Joe Morello, Philly Joe Jones, Ed Shaugnessy, Buddy Rich and Irv Cotler. Many hours were spent listening, absorbing, and learning the techniques and styles of these masters, with the help of Atlantic City drummers, Raymond Deeley and Roy Rakszawski. By 1987, Sean had successfully transferred from the piano to fulltime study of the drumset. While still in high school, Sean found work as a sideman on drums and percussion to be abundant. Under the guidance of Philadelphia woodwind session player, Gary Zimmaro, Sean began playing in a variety of pit orchestras and stage bands throughout the Philadelphia region. This freefall approach to learning to sight-read, play all styles - especially swing and Latin - and ascertain how to contend with a wide range of musicians, proved invaluable throughout Sean's career. In the early 1990s, Sean began playing with a variety of rock/funk groups in effort to expand his already broadening musical vocabulary. Community carnivals, dances and parties were all part of the routine for these bands. In 1994, Sean landed a full-time playing job in Allentown, Pennsylvania at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom playing in a rock band 6 days a week. The group primarily played cover versions of 50's and 60's tunes. Richer than the first sweet taste of being paid as a fulltime professional musician, was the opportunity to meet other serious, young musicians from across the country, and share musical ideas and experiences both onstage and off. Among one of the many musicians whom Sean worked with was saxophonist, Erin Stroup, who would become a longtime collaborator. Road to Wailea, Sean's debut CD, has already received accolades from some of the leading jazz artists on the scene today, including Gerald Veasley, Joe Morello, and Tommy Campbell. Jazz saxophonist and contributor to Saxophone Journal Magazine, Tim Price, says, 'Sean's playing has volumes of beauty in the sound of his creativity in jazz. Even at his wildest, whacked-out moment, you'll find intensity and grace in his playing that is stunning. His music has a universal vibe that speaks to all and is in a class of it's own.' While still doing the occasional freelance date, Sean's present focus is on building the audience for his quartet, The Sean J. Kennedy Quartet, which focuses on his original compositions and new arrangements of time-honored standards. With Sean on drums, the group features Erin Stroup on saxophones, John Stenger on piano, and Raymond Clemens on bass. As stated in a recent review on Jazzreview.com, Kennedy's quartet is 'creatively new, but built on solid foundations of traditional jazz.' Sean holds two music degrees from The West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where he was a student of Christopher Hanning, Joseph Goebel, and did additional study with the late Ron DiStefano, from Temple University.