In sum, Big Joe Kennedy’s “Amalgamation” is a triumph – an embodiment of musical brilliance, passion, and artistry. With each track, Kennedy and his ensemble weave a sonic tapestry that invites listeners on an enchanting voyage through the heart and soul of blues and jazz. It’s a testament to Big Joe Kennedy’s enduring musical legacy and his unwavering commitment to his craft, a gift to all who revel in the magic of timeless music.” - Jacob Aiden

JamSphere; The Independent Music Magazine

From the soulful groove and hook of Messin’ With the Kid, through the quirky horns, rhythms and storytelling of Working in The Coal Mine, the album is quick to appeal. Weave in the likes of an infectiously energetic Fidgety Feet, and the contrastingly smooth piano-hi-hat embrace of They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and Amalgamation is an easy must for the year ahead.” - Rebecca Cullen

Stereo Stickman

...delivers a blue-to-the-root sound on this CD, which is infused with the spirit of his current home, New Orleans.” - Marty Gunther

Chicago Blues Guide, Marty Gunther’s Red, Hot ’n Blues Music Reviews - February 2024

Is there mission driving your creative journey? Since writing my book, Spread The Jam, my mission is to get more musicians sharing in this vast landscape of possibilities. I want to show the beginners how they can start this musical process of learning, trying, failing, and trying again in any musical style. There isn’t one perfect way or one right way. There are many possibilities and success looks different for everyone.”

CanvasRebel Magazine

 BIG JOE KENNEDY UW-Parkside’s music department has produced an impressive number of successful musicians, including Joe Kennedy – a.k.a. Big Joe Kennedy. A talented performer, Big Joe Kennedy plays jazz, blues, or whatever style provides the right music for the atmosphere. Big Joe lives and performs in New Orleans. . ." Click the link to read the whole article. ”

UW Parkside News

BJK is one of NOLA’s better-kept secrets. He’s got a strong pianistic touch, immersed in the NOLA tradition of Dr. John and James Booker. In addition he’s a booming, bluesy singer who can turn sly quickly. 504-Tified is an aggressive mix of NOLA R&B (“Junco Partner,” “Let’s Make a Better World,””Sea Cruise”), trad standards (“Sugar Blues,” “Doctor Jazz”) and lesser-known trad (“Tain’t No Sin”). Big Joe has something of Harry Connick Jr.’s energy and brio. He delivers a fine cover of Connick’s “Come by Me” and plays “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” with a slow swing that’s a nice pace from the usual hecticity. There are, as well, crazy outliers like “Stayin’ Alive” (yes, ha ha ha ha, “Stayin’ Alive,” that one), and a slow, gospelly “Runnin’ Wild.” You can catch Big Joe on the Natchez playing with the Dukes of Dixieland, or on weekends at his regular solo gig at the 21st Amendment. Or check out this disc, a fine outing from one of our city’s emerging piano talents.” - Tom McDermott


Totally unheard of It's Friday around midnight at Pogo's Tavern and the classic jazz is at full tilt. Mustachioed band leader Red Michaels leads off the last set of the night with "Take the A Train," a 1941 Billy Strayhorn composition that, like all of its kind, lends itself to an infinity of interpretations. The regular Friday night combo addresses a few of those now, working in non-verbal concert to flesh out an infectious, rambling melody that somehow complements the bleary-eyed guy in the corner struggling with an ATM keypad. A seated audience of all ages, from ancient to barely bar-legal, nods, taps feet and hoots to a noise made by drums, upright bass, trumpet, two saxophones and an electric piano. The keys are manned by Joe Kennedy. He might be one of the youngest among these veteran musicians of a 40-years-running Pogo's event that's seen hundreds of players come and go, but he's got to be one of the best this room's ever seen. When it's his turn to solo, he opens it up, playing something forceful, fun and completely fitting -- even if you won't find the notes he's playing or the shape he's giving to this beast outlined on paper anywhere in the world. The rules he and his bandmates are following aren't quite as simple as the "Yes, and..." of improv comedy, but are the same in essence. In this case, the "yes" amounts to at least playing in the agreed-upon key, while the "and" means doing your part to propel this thing somewhere the thing itself feels like it wants to go, as any jazz player who listens to that ethereal voice can tell you. Kennedy's muse apparently just told him that a circus-y direction is the way to go, so he goes, descending for two bars in a series of notes that pump extra whimsy into the mix -- just before resolving in a stuttering, speech-inflected burst of dotted-eighth-notes. (Think of someone punctuating a spoken tirade with "and that ... is ... the ... truth!") A little later, it's Michaels' bass that gets in its two cents, from a very different but yet compatible perspective, delivered without stepping on Kennedy's or anyone else's toes. How do all these musicians let each other know when they're done "talking"?” - Dave Surratt

Las Vegas CityLife

. . . In the print version of scene262 for February I wrote up Big Joe Kennedy’s show at The Rita at Parkside. Whether you saw/heard him Feb. 12, you should head out to the Yardarm on Wednesday, Feb. 22 to check him out. The piano player is a much sought after side man for both recordings and live shows. He also knows how to deliver the goods as a solo performer. Kennedy’s set list often includes the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Frank Sinatra along with the best in stride and other styles. Kennedy also has his own original material. If you need any more incentive to come out to the show, there will be a Guinness pint glass giveaway while supplies last.” - Paddy Fineran

Big Joe Kennedy is back in town. And while he's here, the blues/jazz pianist wants to share some of what he's been up to, musically, since leaving Racine. The 2002 graduate of Walden III High School will do so in a free concert at his other alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, on Sunday, Feb. 12. The evening of music - which will also feature a six-piece band - is Kennedy's way of saying thank you to the communities of Racine and Kenosha that have supported him through the years. It will also serve as a benefit for the Racine County Food Bank and the Kenosha Food Pantry, as audience members are asked to bring a nonperishable food donation to the show. This event is all about giving back," said Kennedy, 28, who returned to Racine at the end of January, after performing jazz piano for more than a year aboard Holland America Line cruise ships. Joining Kennedy on stage at UW-Parkside will be Mike Gudbaur on bass, Terry Peterson on guitar, Paul Griffin on drums, John Sorensen on trumpet, Ken Fabis on sax and Katie Poole on trombone. Together they will present a variety of music ranging from familiar tunes by Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and Billy Joel to both new and old originals by Kennedy. This will not be your everyday noise in the corner," said Kennedy, who earned 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. Varied influences Kennedy's musical influences are many, from piano masters such as Gene Harris and Ramsey Lewis to classical composers Debussy and Satie. His style has been compared to that of Harry Connick Jr. and Ray Charles. And, when asked to give his own description, he'll tell you that his playing is "too jazzy for blues and too bluesy for jazz. It was his love for the blues that led him to study jazz, and that passion was first cultivated at the Sunday Night Blues Jams at George's Tavern, 1201 N. Main St., according to Kennedy, who has been playing piano since he was seven. A teenager back then, Kennedy attended the Blues Jams with his parents, Gary and Juley, and before long the musicians there - starting with Gary Lekas - invited him to sit in with them on occasion. Those guys really took me under their wing," Kennedy said. "It was one of the best musical experiences I had at that point in my life. He also credits his longtime piano teacher, James Sodke of Racine's Lakeshore Conservatory of Music, with being very influential in his development, as well as Tim Bell, the now-retired director of jazz studies at UW-Parkside, where Kennedy earned degrees in both jazz studies and finance. I just can't give them enough accolades," Kennedy said. The Big Easy and the big ship The Joe Kennedy the audience will hear on Feb. 12 has also been influenced by his time living and teaching in New Orleans, which he did for two years after graduating from the University of Las Vegas in 2009. New Orleans, he said, is a great city for music not only because of the performers living there, but because of the people who come to hear them play. Live music can be found every night of the week in New Orleans, often played in very basic, narrow establishments called "shotgun clubs. All you need is four walls, some bar stools and a band, and you will pack the place, every night," Kennedy said. He has also enjoyed his cruise ship gig, where he performed classics with a jazz trio seven nights a week in a small lounge. "We played a lot of older stuff, from cha-chas to Cole Porter." And when he wasn't performing, Kennedy got to visit almost all of the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Alaska. "We have a real good time," he said. Sunday's concert will be a family-friendly show, Kennedy said. Bring the kids, the grandkids and the neighbors," he said. "So many people have seen me grow up, musically, in this community. Now I need to take it one step further and give something back.” - Lee Roberts

— The Journal Times

There's no doubt about it. A lot of cats can play the piano around here. Some are pretty damn good in fact. However, Big Joe Kennedy is the Piano MAN around these parts. High in demand, chill in attitude and above the cherry with chops, Kennedy is a local treasure while he's here. Check him out.” - Paddy Fineran