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Nigel Kennedy

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Album Review

Classical music fans have long had the pleasure of indulging in spirited disagreements about the playing of British violinist Nigel Kennedy. He doubtless has the popular touch and has made some of the best-selling classical recordings of all time. He is also outrageous for the sake of being outrageous, gleefully insensitive to period styles, and all in all more interested in drawing attention to himself than to the music. One could, of course, make the argument that these are qualities classical music desperately needs right now, and plenty have buyers have clearly drawn that conclusion. At any rate, jazz lovers can now enjoy the same disagreements. Kennedy's no stranger to jazz, having become interested in the music as a teen and been forced to give it up by his teachers at the Juilliard School (which may explain a lot). The bland title Recital is ironic indeed, for Kennedy is not reciting anybody else's music: it's all his. There are a couple of Bach pieces marked simply "Allegro" and "Vivace," with familiar Bach pieces bumping up against, respectively, Brazilian and African rhythms. The works by Fats Waller, Dave Brubeck, and other jazz players (there are a couple of Kennedy originals too) don't feel like jazz; Kennedy gives them a showy, jittery quality that is miles from the generally cool ethos of jazz, and they depart even more than the word "jazz" might reasonably imply from the originals. They will also, except for Kennedy's confirmed detractors, be a great deal of fun, and it's remarkable how edgy this artist has continued to be after all these years. You pay your money, and you take your choice.


Born: December 28, 1956 in Brighton, England

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

As one of the most successful classical performers of his time, violinist Nigel Kennedy's genre-defying music helped him achieve a level of fame typically reserved for pop stars. A native of Brighton, England, he studied music at the Yehudi Menuhin School and at Juilliard; his debut recording, Elgar Violin Concerto, appeared in 1984, shortly followed by Nigel Kennedy Plays Jazz. In the years to follow, Kennedy collaborated not only with the more traditional likes of Riccardo Muti and the Philharmonia...
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