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WGUC Reviews

Blue Note Sessions

Blue Note Sessions
Nigel Kennedy

Review by: Frank Johnson

Back in 1994, classical violinist Itzhak Perlman cut an album with Oscar Peterson and his band. Perlman has said he was nervous playing the date. Both in working with legendary musicians like Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Grady Tate; and by playing the very different genre of jazz.

Nigel Kennedy, unlike Perlman, has the improvising chops that work well in his release of late 2006, Blue Note Sessions. And, like Perlman, Kennedy surrounds himself with some big names - Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette and Joe Lovano. With players like these, Kennedy makes the best of the situation by not placing himself at the constant center of the action. He’s a member of a band here, not a diva.

Horace Silver’s Song for My Father may be track #8, but chances are it’s the first you’ll want to hear. Kenny Werner’s piano embellishes the familiar two-note base of the set up and Lovano’s tenor starts the melody with the violin in tandem. Kennedy takes the first solo and then plays a mostly comp role for the rest of the track, the other players weaving in and out.

Another standard, Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue, is the first track on the disc. After Lucky Peterson’s Hammond B-3 intro, Kennedy is more upfront with his playing. Even though he’s on electric violin, there’s more of an earlier Stephane Grappelli heard than Jean-Luc Ponty, one of the pioneers on that version of the instrument.

Stranger in a Stranger Land is a Kennedy composition that features his most controlled and mannered playing. There’s more of the classical Kennedy, of pure and smooth tones, than on the other tracks.

For some strange reason, there’s a vocal cut midway in the CD. Raul Midón sings Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions - quite out of place with the rest of the material.

And then there’s the fact that Kennedy's Blue Note Sessions has yet to be released in North America. The online stores have it available. But is it worth, the extra bucks and effort? Not if you want the Kennedy showmanship you might get from a classical concerto. But a solid “Yes” for an above average session with an infrequently heard jazz instrument.

Frank Johnson is the weekday afternoon host for WGUC from 2 to 7pm.


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