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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Nigel Kennedy Quintet – A Very Nice Album

EMI CLASSICS 2 13171 2 [57:35 + 50:03]



Carnivore of the Animals
Nice Bottle of Beaujolais, innit?
Transitoire I
Boo Boooz Blooooze
Hills of Saturn
Transitoire 2
15 Stones
Transitoire 3
Where all paths meet
Transitoire 4
Transitoire 5
Father and Son
Transitoire 6
Hudson’s Ibitha
Nigel Kennedy and his Quintet (Nigel Kennedy (violin), Adam Kowalewski (bass), Tomasz Grzegorski (tenor sax), Piotr Wylezol (piano, organ), Pawel Dobrowoski (drums) featuring Xantoné Blacq and Chris Lung (vocals))
rec. 2008


I’ve been getting down with a number of Kennedy’s recent jazz quintet performances, some on disc and one on DVD. This latest release is a two CD set featuring a lot of new material written by Kennedy; disc one is called Melody, disc two Invention and the album title – though I’ve seen Melody; Invention listed – is A Very Nice Album.

Those for whom Kennedy’s jazz forays mean Blue Note jazz – with a strong Duke Pearson meeting Horace Silver vibe – should know that this album is cut from a different cloth. It hews closer to the jazz-folk scene, eschewing, in case that is to be misconstrued, the Eastern European-tinted folkloric music that his Polish band can embrace. Donovan for instance, the very first track, features Kennedy talking over the intro; stylistically this is a sort of homage to Donovan, whom many would doubtless consider an unlikely object of Kennedy’s admiration. Xantoné Blacq’s vocals enliven Carnivore of the Animals with its L.A cum funk feel, at least once past Kennedy’s rather hokey (all right, juvenile) vocal contribution. The loose-limbed lyrical feel that pervades the album – epitomised by the relaxed Nice Bottle of Beaujolais, innit? – is balanced by excursions to the blues wherein N.K. gets down with a shopping lament (Boo Boooz Blooooze) and unleashes a pungent electric violin solo. Elsewhere he pays audible obeisance to Hendrix.

He also brings some, one assumes, political slant to bear on Invaders. Like all the songs in the booklet it’s illustrated with a little drawing. This one reads "Palestine Rule OK." Whether the grammar is skewed deliberately we don’t know but there’s a military-Semitic sound to this one, alongside some rock ‘n’ roll crescendo – the twentieth century equivalent of the Mannheim version. His band gets opportunities of course. There are very dependable piano and bass solos. Tenor player Tomasz Grzegorski sounds Getz-like on Where all paths meet.

There are also Transitoires – little solo violin reflections from Kennedy – some Bachian in origin. Touchingly I think – given what we know of his own relationship with his Australian cellist father John Father And Son opens with a keening examination of O come O come Emanuel. Meanwhile Hudson’s Ibitha is a groovy Eastern European workout.

This is something of a bipartite album, the first disc folksier than the second. It’s uneven but evidence of Kennedy’s wide-ranging musical enthusiasms.

Jonathan Woolf





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