Guest Author - Sue Sutherland-Wood
Nigel Kennedy is a classical virtuoso violinist by anyone on the planet’s standards. Refreshingly unaffected and charmingly “street” (Kennedy has long since adapted and cultivated a sort of nouveau-punk image and bears more than a passing resemblance to the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten) he was identified as a child prodigy early on in childhood and was ultimately awarded a scholarship to attend the highly revered Yehudi Menuhin school in Surrey, England.
At age seventeen, Kennedy was playing at Carnegie Hall with jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli and his relationship and respect for Grappelli would go on to deeply influence and foster Kennedy’s appreciation for all things jazz.
Although he performed with Stan Getz at Greenwich Village clubs whilst he was attending Julliard and later would dabble in rock efforts as well (recording with Kate Bush and Paul McCartney) Kennedy has never really focused himself on jazz as a serious concept till recently.
Nigel’s personal passion for jazz comes through very clearly on The Blue Note Sessions ; in fact, all of the musicians on this album seem to having an absolute blast. The list of players is highly impressive and extensive including arch sax player Joe Lavano on tenor sax, Ron Carter on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Carter and DeJohnette have both worked with Miles Davis amongst many other respected players. According to the website for the Blue Notes compact disc musicians worked through breaks and lunches just for the sheer enjoyment and not wanting to stop! Noteworthy as well is the fact that all of the musicians are given full cred and links to their own respective sites – there is never an indication that this is all about Kennedy’s ego and in fact, his playing is often less not more and there’s never a sense that he steps forward to solo à la Hendrix. But when he does play or throw in a little improv the listener will be compelled to lean in because his technique and sound are both unique and breathtaking. That, and the fact that the electric violin adds something so unusual to the line-up that it's difficult to explain or put into words.
The predominant feeling common to all of the tracks on this album is freshness – there is no sense that it’s all been done before, no boring predictability whatsoever. There are a few exclusive Nigel Kennedy compositions as well and they are both engaging and hot. Kennedy’s violin is like a voice – insistent and compelling. Check out I Almost Lost my Mind which is almost SRV in its sensibilities, I kid you not.
This is a great all round album and would appeal to anyone who is either into jazz or on the look out for something really clean, modern and technically brilliant. Enjoy.