NKQ – Nigel Kennedy Quintet

Nigel Kennedy
Nice Bottle of Beaujolais, Innit?
Hills of Saturn
Boo Boooz Blooooze
Carnivore of the Animals
Jimi Hendrix
Third Stone from the Sun

NKQ – Nigel Kennedy Quintet [Nigel Kennedy (electric violin), Tomasz Grzegorski (saxophones), Piotr Wyleżoł (piano), Adam Kowalewski (double bass & electric bass) & Paweł Dobrowolski (drums & percussion)]

Jeff Beck (guitar)
Xantoné Blacq (singer & percussion)

Reviewed by: Chris Caspell

Reviewed: 19 July, 2008
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Nigel KennedyRemaining in the Royal Albert Hall for extra time, Nigel Kennedy, well-known as an Aston Villa supporter, presented a selection from his recent “A Very Nice Album”. As on the (two) CDs, the music of this late-night extravaganza presented two ideas: Melody and Invention, the former in a manner reminiscent of a 1980s’ rock-fusion band. All the music, with the exception of the final Hendrix number, was written by Kennedy – a cluttered and derivative selection.

Kennedy’s idolising of Stephane Grappelli is evident in his melodic flowing style but his homage to Donovan in the first piece proved an unlikely bedfellow for this would-be jazz musician. Together with the second piece, apparently inspired by “a nice bottle of beaujolais” (though musically resembling Vincent Youmans’s “Tea for Two”), the music drifted into an easy-listening pap, having neither the hard-edge of rock music nor the clarity of jazz.

Jeff BeckKennedy has played jazz as long as he has classical music so it was disappointing not to have better examples of his jazz credentials. “Cloud” showed some promise with a refreshingly free improvisation in the middle section only to return to banality. Almost to give Kennedy some credibility, ex-Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck appeared “Hills of Saturn” – owing much to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” before returning to tedium with Kennedy’s parody on the blues in “Boo Boooz Blooooze”; lamentably Kennedy did the vocals!

Kennedy’s final number introduced Xantoné Blacq, no stranger as a keyboard-player and vocalist in Amy Winehouse’s band. Though a musical performance, sadly the words were completely inaudible masking probably the most interesting piece so far.

With the concert over-running and members of the audience drifting out to catch buses and trains, the NKQ ended with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 “Third Stone from the Sun” – often cited as one of the earliest examples of jazz-rock fusion.

The ‘Nige’-junkies left the Hall gleefully celebrating their hero. The phenomenon that is classical-violinist Kennedy has transferred to Kennedy the jazz-rock star – though the reality of Kennedy as part of jazz mainstream is some way away.

  • BBC Proms
  • Highlights on BBC2 on Saturday 26 July at 6.50 p.m.

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