After decades of dazzling the world with record-breaking classical performances, the English violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy has surprised the music industry with a breathtaking jazz recording. He has become the first EMI Classics violinist to be invited into the fabled Blue Note family, with his new album Blue Note Sessions marking the start of a completely new career path within the magical world of jazz. Although a radical departure from his lifelong study of the classics, there are still hallmark signatures of this uniquely gifted musician who has so changed the face of classical markets.
His passion for creating excitement within music has now driven him to forge a truly explosive recording band uniting young musical talents alongside true masters of American jazz – figures like bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette who have helped write post-war jazz history with their work alongside Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, and others. Kennedy has fused the saxophone sounds of Joe Lovano and JD Allen, combined the dynamic visions of Kenny Werner's piano, Daniel Sadownick's percussion colors and the intuitive Deep South soul of Lucky Peterson on Hammond B-3 organ. Blue Note Sessions was made under the watchful eye of Grammy Award-winning producer Jay Newland and features both jazz standards and original compositions by Kennedy, Carter and DeJohnette.
Nigel Kennedy may be the world's best selling classical violinist, but few people know just how close a call it was between a career in jazz or the classics. Thus Blue Note Sessions is as important a recording as anything Kennedy has ever created, for it finally marks fulfilment of his alternative dream.
From his childhood years, Nigel listened to jazz under his pillow in the dormitories of the Menuhin School of Music where he was honoured with Menuhin's very first scholarship. Small informal student jazz bands followed and then Stephane Grappelli lectured the young pupils and Kennedy asked to bring his fiddle. Predictably Grappelli and Nigel played together distilling a sense of performance joy in Kennedy that is still at the epicentre of every concert he performs today. From that moment onward, Kennedy viewed performing within a wider context than the traditions of the classics. The joy he felt he wanted to share with others on stage, within an audience.
Nigel Kennedy has always been a jazz player. The key moment, the pivotal decision, occurred at the Juilliard School in New York. Grappelli was due to perform at Carnegie Hall and wanted Nigel to join him on stage - though the school authorities had constantly warned that performing jazz would destroy his classical opportunities. The excitement of jazz seduced him and they performed together on stage. Fortunately, for millions of his fans around the globe, Nigel Kennedy is a man of extraordinary strengths. Instead of hurting his classical prospects, he has brought his free spirit to that world, destroying many of those traditional barriers. At the same time, he has kept his passion for jazz strong with occasional performances with figures such as pianists Jimmy Rowles and Ellis Larkins, singers Helen Humes and Bobby McFerrin, and saxophonist Zoot Sims as well as his own tours with European musicians.