Steve Vai may be known best for his guitar pyrotechnics, but throughout his career he's been recognized for being a cut or three above most guitar shredders as a composer. Mike Keneally is probably best known for his guitar prowess nowadays, but the fact is that he started out as a keyboard player (organ actually, but that's another story). After touring in Vai's band as guitarist/keyboard player, Keneally was asked by Vai if he'd be interested in recording Steve's tunes on solo piano, and the result is Piano Reductions, Vol. 1. These are not transcriptions of Vai's solos played on piano, they're more like interpretations. Keneally strips the songs to their barest melody and uses that as the starting point for these pieces. But Keneally puts quite a bit of himself into the tunes as well, altering tempos and rearranging things as he pleases. This is an album that's likely to surprise nearly all listeners on some level. One really gets a sense of what a great piano player Keneally is; something that doesn't necessarily present itself on his own albums. Vai's tunes really stand on their own: this sounds like an album of classy piano music, not "The Piano Tribute to Steve Vai." Unaware listeners would probably never guess that Vai penned these tunes. This album is probably more likely to appeal to Keneally fans than Vai fans, but you could probably play it as background music for a romantic dinner, and it might also appeal to your grandma. Who would have expected that from an album of Steve Vai music?
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard