Irish music’s accordion virtuoso Jimmy Keane was born in London of Irish-speaking parents from Connemara and Kerry. His late father Jimmy was a magnificent sean-nos singer, and both parents actively encouraged Jimmy to take up traditional Irish music. Jimmy has achieved unprecedented success in competitive playing, having won five consecutive All-Ireland titles on the piano accordion. His original compositions have become part of the mainstream of traditional Irish music around the world. He also has recorded and produced numerous albums.
Many regard Keane as the premier exponent of traditional Irish music on the piano accordion. Noted musician Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin praised Keane as the “savior of the piano accordion.” eMusic described him as “one of the true giants of Irish traditional music of the past fifty years,” and singer-songwriter Christy Moore described Jimmy’s playing as “wild and beautiful.”
Jimmy’s early instrumental musical influences were local greats Joe Cooley, Kevin Keegan, Balbriggan’s Paddy Gavin (button accordion), Johnny McGreevy (fiddle), Kevin Henry (flute), Joe Shannon (uilleann pipes) and Eleanor Neary (piano) along with the many other fine Irish musicians in Chicago. In the early 1970s, Jimmy began playing with his Chicago contemporaries, the brilliant fiddler Liz Carroll, and flute player and step dancer Michael Flatley. He has incorporated the techniques, ornamentation, and subtleties used by fiddlers, uilleann pipers, flute players, and button accordionists. In the process, he has created a unique approach to the playing of traditional Irish music on his instrument.
In the early 1980s, Jimmy joined with banjoist and singer Mick Moloney and guitarist and singer-songwriter Robbie O’Connell to record two critically acclaimed albums: There Were Roses and Kilkelly. He was also featured in the highly acclaimed BBC TV series and recording, Bringing It All Back Home, and was featured on the soundtrack and recording for the award winning PBS documentary Out Of Ireland. He became part of the revamped Green Fields of America with Mick Moloney, Robbie O’Connell, fiddler Eileen Ivers, multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan and recorded an album called The Green Fields of America: Live. He also began playing with internationally acclaimed guitarist Dennis Cahill and continues performing with Dennis whenever the opportunity presents itself. In the mid-1990s Jimmy and Robbie O’Connell formed the group Aengus and recorded All on a Christmas Morning for the RCA Victor label. Jimmy founded Bohola in 1999 with Pat Broaders (bouzouki and vocal) and recorded several albums on the Shanachie and Bohola Music labels. The latest Bohola release, Jimmy Keane & Pat Broaders was awarded “Celtic Album of the Year” from Just Plain Folks and “Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year” from the Irish American News.
In addition to his solo work, Jimmy currently performs with bohola and is part of Joanie Madden’s touring ensemble An Irish Homecoming along with Cherish the Ladies, Maura O’Connell, Liz Carroll, and Dermot Henry. He also is performing once again as part of Moloney, O’Connell & Keane and also performing alongside Liz Carroll. Jimmy is in pre-production on several recordings including a banjo-accordion album with long-time friend Mick Moloney and a recording of his original compositions which will feature musical friends both old and new. In 2010, Jimmy was named “Male Musician of the Year” by the Irish American News. In 2011, Jimmy was honored with the “Male Musician of the Decade” award by Live Ireland and by the Irish American News.
Instructor – Piano Accordion