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BIG JOE KENNEDY: Bio

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Big Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy’s musical artistry is a welcome change to the stale environment in today’s vocoder-worshipping music industry. His dexterous combinations of Blues and Jazz recall classic performers while boldly paving a new path that is entirely his own.

Kennedy knew he was destined for greatness the day he placed his fingers on a piano at age eight. He began studying Jazz at age 15 and, at 16, was attending local Blues jams where the performers took him under his wing and invited him on tour when he turned 18 where he learned the ropes of performance, showmanship and crowd interaction in his home state of Wisconsin and in Illinois.

After years of working with other artists, he released his solo debut album, Submerged, in 2004. The album’s combination of Blues and Jazz was a critical hit and an underground sensation that earned him the “Best Blues Pianist” award the same year in a statewide competition. He continued his success with The Straight Ahead EP in 2006 and 2008’s No Turning Back.

His style has been compared to that of Harry Connick Jr., James Taylor and Ray Charles and draws influence from a wide pool of influential artists such as Paul Simon, Richard Tee, Debussy and Satie. Piano fanatics will notice shades of Gene Harris, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock and other piano masters.

Kennedy fully embraces the praise (and criticism) that his distinct style receives. “My style is too jazzy for blues and too bluesy for jazz,” he says, “so I have been told. I like to take a jazz song and make it dirty,” he explains, “or take a rough blues tune and clean it up just enough to get the story across on the piano instead of guitar.”

Kennedy, a University of Wisconsin-Parkside alumnus, received his Master’s of Music Degree in Jazz Performance from the University of Las Vegas where he studied with Dave Loeb, Bruce Paulson and Tom Warrington. He was also the Graduate Assistant for the school’s Jazz department where he coordinated all student performances as the Jazz Event Coordinator.

After finishing the Masters Program at UNLV, Joe was a full time faculty member for the 2009 and 2010 academic years at the Louisiana Academy of Performing Arts in New Orleans, teaching jazz and traditional piano. He also held long term engagements at clubs in the French Quarter playing 3+ nights a week solo piano, with his Jazz Trio, and his 7 piece funky blues band.

In December of 2010 Joe was recruited to be the band leader and pianist in lounges on cruise ships. He has traveled to Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçau, Mexico, Turks and Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatamala, Panama, Costa Rica, and Alaska. After a 2 year run on cruise ships, Joe joined forces with Felix & Fingers Dueling Piano's in Chicago, IL. He traveled with them all around the midwest performing private parties, corporate events, weddings and more from late 2012 until the fall of 2013.

New Orleans' own DUKES of Dixieland invited Joe to perform with them for a weekend in the Spring of 2013, and it turned out to be the beginning of a new friendship. Joe officially joined the DUKES of Dixieland in Sept. 2013 as the full time pianist and performs with them nightly in New Orleans.

Joe Kennedy continues to grace audiences with his music, and perform his brand of funky jazzy blues wherever the music takes him.