Nigel Kennedy review – banter, birdsong and violin heroics

Ronnie Scott’s, London
Shifting gears between Bach, Hendrix and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kennedy and his quartet perform a characteristically wide-ranging and virtuosic set

The Aston Villa scarf draped over the piano lid is a giveaway: it’s Nigel Kennedy, back at Ronnie Scott’s for eight sets over four days. It begins, as ever, with a bit of banter as he introduces his Polish jazz quartet. Then, just when we think he’ll never stop talking: “let’s get this fucker out of the case”. He picks up his electric instrument – a five-string violin-viola combo – and they launch headlong into Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe, so loud that the nearest audience have their shiraz vibrating in their glasses.

It’s a characteristically eclectic set. The Hendrix, with a bit of Star-Spangled Banner thrown in, morphs into the Gigue from JS Bach’s D minor Partita, which goes off at tangents accompanied in folk-like style by Beata Urbanek-Kalinowska’s cello and by heavy drum beats from Slawomir Berny. This segues into Ryuichi Sakamoto’s East Wind, which has an almost 70s-cop-show feel until near the end, when Kennedy starts bending the tempo, with Berny and bass guitarist Piotr Kułakowski watching him like a hawk. It’s invigorating, and a little indulgent – the chord sequences of the Hendrix and Sakamoto go round until it feels like all their possibilities have been squeezed out. Kennedy beams through everyone else’s solo spots, and fist bumps them all at the end.

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