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Nigel Kennedy Quintet: The Blue Note Sessions - Live In Paris At The New Morning
Nigel Kennedy (violin), Adam Kowalewski (bass), Tomasz Grzegorski (tenor sax),
Piotr Wylezol (piano, organ), Pawel Dobrowoski (drums)
NTSC 16:9; Disc format DVD-9; PCM stereo; subtitles D, F, region free playable on NTSC and PAL compatible systems
rec. April 2007 at the New Morning, Paris
BLUE NOTE 3 95274 9 [114:00]




Nigel Kennedy and his Polish band – the whole quintet is based in Krakow – are captured on film in this DVD recorded at The New Morning, a club in Paris, in April 2007. Kennedy sports his accustomed gear and a mauve tinted electric violin. The rest of his band is a straight-ahead quartet, with pianist Piotr Wylezol doubling Hammond organ when required and tenor player Tomasz Grzegorski doubling bass clarinet.

Kennedy and his band play bop with a funky fringe. The emphasis is broadly on the Blue Note back catalogue but the specific compositional focus is on Duke Pearson. Kennedy’s and the band’s arrangements retain interest throughout; open unison passages for violin and tenor, shifting textures through the use of a variety of percussion, the switching between piano and Hammond; and Kennedy’s use of wa-wa – all these things keep the two sets alive and combustible.

Kennedy isn’t as adventurous an improviser as his younger compatriot Chris Garrick and he’s more immersed in the straight ahead business of bop – anyone who remembers him from his days chugging alongside Grappelli will be in for a shock – but he does play consistently well, as his Blue Note CD with some stellar New York players, some of the crème de la Jazz crème, will attest. He brings a big, viola like tone to bear on Pearson’s Idle Moments and digs in powerfully in the opening set’s closer, Big Bertha.

With his engaging Franglais introductions he leads a strong second set. He essays pizzicati over the Hammond on Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue and reveals a couple of his own compositions. Stranger in a Strange Land has a folkloric tint – and Kennedy digs in with increasing passion after Grzegorski’s bass clarinet solo. His other piece, 15 Stones (his weight?) is imbued with Celtic wistfulness – too much skittering and scudding bowing maybe, but a charmer nonetheless. I Almost Lost My Mind, that Ivory Joe Hunter standby, gets a rousing reading – Jimmy Smith influenced Hammond to the fore alongside some Willow Weep for Me licks and quasi-guitar solo pizzicati from a grooving Kennedy. The wa-wa comes into its own on Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions, a good jazz-soul workout. There are two encores – The Sidewinder and the much less frenetic After the Rain. There’s also a brief interview with Kennedy and some film of him playing, as part of a trio, by the banks of the Seine.

It’s interesting to be reminded during the interview that when he was studying in New York he played jazz in clubs with men such as Jimmy Rowles and Ellis Larkins – no mean feat for a young man.

Camera angles are well judged – not always the case in clubs as relatively small as this one seems to be. The audience is not huge but it is appreciative. The sound is first class and navigation throughout the DVD is easy.

My mind turns to a Grappelli-Stuff Smith-Sven Asmussen-Ray Nance violin summit meeting. Why not lock Regina Carter, Chris Garrick and Kennedy in a room with a rhythm section and see what happens?

Until then this is a classy, if occasionally conventional workout from a swinging, expert group.

Jonathan Woolf


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