Recorded at legendary Abbey Road Studios, Nigel Kennedy's Recital is a highly personal album, a tribute to the two most influential musical figures in his life: Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli.
Based on a program of live performances by Kennedy and his ensemble are currently touring around the world, the recording includes Kennedy's own versions of two pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and arrangements of music made famous by the great jazz pianists and composers Fats Waller and Dave Brubeck. Both the live concerts and the album are characterized by a mixing of genres that reveals Kennedy's personal interests and early influences.
The new release Recital pays homage to Fats Waller (1904–1943) with four arrangements of his songs. Kennedy expresses "my complete admiration for his singular approach to music", noting Waller's ability to entertain as well as write songs. Kennedy's interest in Fats Waller– also a highly popular performer in his day who had both critical and commercial success – dates back to listening to his stepfather's jazz collection as a child.
Just a few days before the recording another great jazz pianist and composer sadly passed away: Dave Brubeck. To honor his remarkable work, Kennedy decided to record his very own interpretation of the famous tune "Take Five" on the album.
Almost unheard of amongst 'classical' artists, Kennedy is a natural improvisor and his musical approach has always to embrace multi genres. As a teenager, his teacher, Yehudi Menuhin, introduced him to Stéphane Grappelli (Kennedy: "the great man who put the violin into jazz") and more recently he founded in 2010 the Orchestra of Life, for which he especially arranged pieces by Duke Ellington, and also included music by Bach in the performances.
As the best-selling classical violinist of all time, whose technical brilliance has been admired in an international career spanning three decades, Kennedy has the confidence to perform his own version of Bach's works: on this album the Sonata No.2 and the Concerto for 2 violins, in jazzy versions arranged for violin, guitar, bass and percussion.
Presenting his own blend of classical and jazz music, Kennedy notes that both Bach and Fats Waller were superb practitioners at the keyboard and masters of melody and harmony, while pointing out that "A whole evening of Bach would be really heavy and because Fats Waller's songs are so short, two hours of that would be hard to take too" – a philosophy which he applies to the recording. In fact Fats Waller was known on occasion to perform organ pieces by Bach and, as Kennedy reveals in his cover notes, "the Bartok pizzicato at the end of the intro is Morse code for the words ‘take five'".
The album also features Kennedy's own compositions, New Dawn and Dusk, his arrangement of a Brazilian hit by Ze Gomez, Por do Sol, and a traditional Irish track, Out in the Ocean.
Four world class musicians join Kennedy for this album: on acoustic and twelve-string, the hugely talented German guitarist, Rolf Bussalb; on bass, Yaron Stavi, whose range encompasses jazz, world music, rock and classical; the brilliant Polish percussionist Krzysztof Dziedzic; and Barbara Dziewiecka playing second violin and viola.
With this fine ensemble and inspired selection of music, Recital marks Nigel Kennedy's second album for Sony Classical. Recital consciously aims to capture the intimacy of his performances with a small ensemble: "All of this repertoire is music which I have either grown up with or feel as if I have grown up with".
By performing some of his favorite pieces in Recital, this formidable violinist presents a new, highly personal landmark in his distinguished career.
About Nigel Kennedy
For over twenty-five years, Nigel Kennedy has been acknowledged as one of the world's leading violin virtuosos. His technique, unique talent and mass appeal have brought fresh perspectives to the classical and contemporary repertoire. He is the best-selling classical violinist of all time. Following his debut album in 1984, playing Elgar's Violin Concerto, he made landmark recordings of other leading works from the classical repertoire, but also explored the music of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, klezmer and jazz standards.
He has performed with the world's leading orchestras and conductors throughout Europe, North America, Central and South America, South East Asia and Australia. His recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling classical work of all time. Kennedy founded a new orchestra, made up mainly of young Polish musicians, the Orchestra of Life, which from 2010 presenting an innovative program of Duke Ellington and Bach. In February 2012 he presented the repertoire with Bach and Fats Waller for the first time across Asia.