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October 2007

Nigel Kennedy
Blue Note Sessions
Blue Note Records

You always knew England’s Nigel Kennedy wasn’t your typical classical musician—with a mohawk and punk-trash style, the guy looks like Johnny Rotten with a violin. He has, after all, been drawn as much to Jimi Hendrix and the Doors as to Beethoven and Vivaldi. But now he has undergone a Kafkaesque transformation: recording an album for Blue Note with some of the biggest names in jazz, including bassist Ron Carter, drummer Jack DeJohnette, pianist Kenny Werner and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano.

Kennedy says he has long been a jazz musician but had been told early in his career that playing jazz would damage his opportunities to play classical music. Whether it is true doesn’t matter at this point, because we have on our hands a nifty recording that traverses many styles, from hard bop and ballads to soul jazz and pop jazz. Just listen to the way Kennedy, playing electric violin on all 11 tunes, saws madly back and forth on Duke Pearson’s “Sudel,” working his way up and back down the register. And then admire his delicate fluttering on his own tune, “Maybe in Your Dreams.” And then listen to his “Sunshine Alley” solo, in which he improvises all around the edges of harmony, bending notes and gradually turning his electric violin into an electric guitar. Bring on some more Blue Note sessions, Nigel.

Originally published in October 2007
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