Virtuosic guitar playing and a passion for imaginative composing has kept the schedule of Brian Keane full. In addition to recording several memorable solo albums, Keane has been featured on albums by such stellar jazz players as Larry Coryell, Paco de Lucia, and Bobby McFerrin. His four albums with Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek -- Suleyman the Magnificent, Fire Dance, Beyond the Sky, and Whirling -- are classics of modern Middle Eastern music. Respectfully called "the John Williams of the documentary world," Keane has composed scores for more than 100 historical and social films and television documentaries.
Keane inherited his musical talents from his parents. His mother was an avant-garde composer and opera singer who has performed in Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. His father was a highly trained Irish tenor singer. Although his father bought a guitar, intending to learn how to play, it lay dormant until he picked it up at the age of ten. Teaching himself a few chords, he spent hours playing rock & roll songs. Initially uninterested in jazz, Keane changed his point of view after attending a concert by the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the mid-'70s. Inspired by what he heard, he began taking the guitar much more seriously. While attending Staples High School, he studied at the Juilliard School of Music with John Mohegan, the developer of the numeric theory of music and the author of Rhythm and Tonal Principals. By the time that he enrolled in Ithica College, he knew more than most music teachers.
Although he studied with modern composer Karel Husa at Cornell University, he earned his B.A. in general studies. Moving to New York, following his graduation, Keane was soon playing with the city's top instrumentalists. In addition to playing in a trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and flautist Jeremy Steig, he performed with a Connecticut-based fusion band Sunsight from 1978 to 1981. Keane also began working as a session guitarist for Atlantic Records producer Arif Mardin.
Shortly after leaving Sunsight, Keane began collaborating with influential jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Performing as a duo, Keane and Coryell recorded three albums during the four years that they worked together. Keane's collaboration with Tekbilek developed while he was working on the soundtrack for the film Suleyman the Magnificent. Although he knew little of Tekbilek, who was suggested for the project by Mardin, Keane became excited after their initial recording session. The resulting soundtrack recording was so powerful that the two musicians were offered a contract by Celestial Harmonies.