Originally from New York, Tim Keenan stopped in Washington, DC before bringing his drums to Chicago in 1991. His stylistic concentration is on Jazz, West African and Afro-Cuban music. When playing, his concentration is on the intention and spirit behind the music.
While recognizing his is an instrument of undefined pitch, he wishes to continuously play the melody, to tell a story true to the framework provided by the composition. To provide the music just what it needs and no more is the principle guiding his playing, no matter the situation, from tumultuous free-jazz improvisations to sweet lullabies and ballads to the ritual music of Santeria.
“A musician has to be willing to expose himself, to be incredibly vulnerable to convey an honest emotion. And strong to be able to lay that out bare without regard to the world’s reaction. The music has to mean something to you and you have to make it yours.”
“When I was in DC, there was a DJ on WPFW, Jimmy Gray. One of his tags was ‘Every composition is a journey.’ I really took that to heart. It reminds you to take the song somewhere, and take the audience along. The journey should be different every time. The path should remain true to the starting point and be observant of every detail along the way.”
It’s this dedication to this art of the story, art of the melody which distinguishes the playing of Bonbonfera Tim Keenan.
While in DC, he studied drum set with Paul Edgar and the multi-directional Nasar Abadey. Studying with Mr. Abadey was a key development . Crucial rhythmic and musical concepts were laid down during lessons and the many gigs Tim spent listening to Nasar. Through Nasar, Tim became part of Brazilian guitarist Ney Mello’s world jazz trio and appears on Ney’s well received “Voyages of Fire” album.
Since arriving in Chicago, Tim has received the Chicago Reader’s Critic’s Choice (23 February 1996) for his work with Composer & Tenor Saxophonist Dave Maddox in Lineage Duets, was the original drummer in Ken Vandermark’s Steam, has performed with Fred Anderson, Bill Brimfield, Fareed Haque, Jim Baker and was a founding member of the Socratic Dialogue. He drummed for the Afro-Caribbean ensemble Pum Pum Sin Manteca, which was featured on “Artbeat Chicago” WTTW-TV, Chicago Channel 11 (4 October 2001) and makes important contributions toTrapeze,Bruce Mak‘s Trios and Quartets, and the Afro-Cuban folkloric drum ensemble Manteca O Folk Ensemble (MOFOE). He has appeared on the stages of clubs all over Chicago, including the Jazz Showcase, the Hot House, Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, the Bop Shop and internationally at the Spirit Club in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa.
In February 2001 Tim realized a life long dream by journeying to Africa. Studying in Guinea with Master Drummers M’Bembe Bangoura, Gbanworo Keita, Laurent Camara and dancers from the Djoliba Ballet was a life altering experience and expanded his consciousness beyond expectations.
He has also studied with Hamid Drake, Taylor, John Yost and at the Bloom School of Jazz, and has taken classes with Babatunde Olatunji, Mark Johnson, Mamady Keita, Madou Dembele,Michael Markus and Frankie Malabe. Tim credits David Bloom for giving him a system to work on previously abstract musical concepts and making him swing harder and play softer.
2004 saw the beginning of another realization of a life long goal. He began studying chekere with Juma Santos, a master drummer and scholar of the African Diaspora and drum culture. December 2004 was another step in his development – a lesson with Rakalam Bob Moses.
Tim loves his Custom Rosewood Gretsch drum set (special thanks to c.e.c.) , Montinieri & Craviotto snares, old Istanbul K’s & Spizzichino cymbals, calf skin heads he tucks himself, and Guinean djembes and dunduns by Moongum and Juan respectively.