Exciting new and old crowds about live performance of J. S. Bach and Duke Ellington standards, Nigel Kennedy, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a five-piece jazz ensemble delivered an exhilarating evening of music. This time Kennedy has combined two genres of the music spectrum: classical Baroque concertos by J. S. Bach and big band music, composed by Duke Ellington and arranged by Kennedy for violin solo, orchestra and five-piece jazz band.
This unusual combination of Baroque and jazz may be perceived as odd, yet the lustrous genius of Nigel Kennedy re-invents and brings out the best of both styles. In that Kennedy reminds musicians and fans that Baroque music was improvisatory in practice, big band music was crafted to perfection, and that dance is intrinsic to both.
The crossing of styles is carried over to the instrumentation and interpretation. Kennedy has pencilled in marimba and drums with felt sticks in the Bach pieces to accentuate the rhythm. Conversely, elegant string accompaniments and ingenious improvisatory counterpoint bring a new perspective to the Ellington tunes.
His 1980s punk image and stage antics annihilate the concert hall’s detached and stiff style of performance. In this casual approach Kennedy remains authentic and shows respect to the audience by inviting them to be part of music in the making.
He plays with abandon, takes risks and pushes the boundaries of his own technical and interpretative genius. This is why the Bach concertos in A minor, E major and the concerto for violin and oboe in D minor, which are now part of the collective unconscious, sounded sublime and left the audience still and gasping at the end. Jeffrey Crellin (oboe) and David Berlin (cello) in the “Two part inventions” were able to match this level of performance.
The Ellington arrangements included “In a mellow tone”, “Take the A train”, “Perdido”, “Harlem airshaft”, “Dusk”, “Cotton tail”, “Caravan” and the beautiful spiritual “Come Sunday”. In their interpretation Kennedy builds on the work of jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and the “Quintette de Hot Club de France”, employing his own band of jazz musicians together with a chamber orchestra. The difference is that Kennedy plays an electric violin from which he is able to extract an amazing palette of sounds.
Tomasz Gregorski (horns), Orphy Robinson (marimba and vibes), Doug Boyle (guitar), Adam Kowalewski (acoustic bass) and Krzysztof Dziedzic (drums and percussion) delivered enticing improvisations. The MSO musicians played synchronously with Kennedy and the band, swinging along with the tunes and enjoying this rare opportunity to the full.
Kennedy sent away the crowd with a piece of his own, “Shhh”. Its magical lullaby tone softened the excitement at the end of the concert and hinted that there are more creative flights to come from this exceptional musician.
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra presents
NIGEL KENNEDY PLAYS BACH AND ELLINGTON
Venue: the Arts Centre, Hamer Hall
Dates/Times: Thursday 11, Friday 12 and Saturday 13 February at 8pm
Tickets: $80 ‐ $120
Bookings: theartscentre.com.au, 1300 182 183 | Ticketmaster on 1300 136 166 | www.mso.com.au