Jimmy Keane, The “savior” of the Piano Accordion

Jimmy Keane

In Irish music, the button accordion is more favored over the piano keyboard, but they are two completely different instruments, played and felt differently. Because of this fact, the old tunes, while still greatly respected, can be energized and invigorated on the piano accordion. We hear that respect in the tune “No Irish Need Apply,” based on discrimination against the Irish immigrants so commonly seen in advertisements in nineteenth century America.

Irish music 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 (old style) singer, and along with young Jimmy’s mother Mary, actively encouraged him to take up traditional Irish music.

Jimmy’s accomplishments are far reaching. He has achieved astonishing and unprecedented success in competitive playing, having won five consecutive All-Ireland titles on the piano accordion. He has always been an avid collector and arranger of old tunes and is becoming increasingly known for his original compositions, many of which 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 University of Limerick Professor, composer, and 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 the voice of Ireland, singer-songwriter Christy Moore, described Jimmy’s playing as “wild and beautiful.”

Music, on both sides of “The Pond” is all the richer for Jimmy Keane’s heroic contributions with the piano accordion!