Blue Note Sessions
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.
Johnson is the weekday afternoon host for
WGUC from 2 to 7pm.