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Nigel Kennedy

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill - 25th May, 2019

Written By Andy Gunton

  • Photograph by Hans Westbeek,

Continuing the ever eclectic mix of acts appearing at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, on Saturday it was the turn of Nigel Kennedy, complete with his band.

Playing as part of the Rye Jazz Festival, which actually takes place in August, he was tonight playing a mixture of Bach, and Kennedy's own compositions, but mainly his interpretations of the work of George and Ira Gershwin.

Nigel Kennedy came to prominence in the 1980's, especially with his recordings of Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons', and I must admit that until this evening I didn't realise that he was such a fan, and performer of Jazz. I always had him down as a Classical artist, which shows how much I knew about him before the concert.

A little bit of subsequent research shows that he has played everything from Elgar to Jimi Hendrix, with many stops in between.

The evening started with a solo performance of Bach's 'Sonate for Solo Violin No.1 in G minor'.

It is only when you see a player of the quality of Nigel Kennedy, live and up close, that you realise just what a gifted musician he is.

During this piece I became mesmerised by the movement of his left hand on the violin, as well as the subtlety of his playing, which was truly something to behold.

Judging by the reception this piece received from the near sell out audience, I obviously wasn't alone in these thoughts.

The second section of the performance consisted of 'The Magician of Lublin', a five section piece written by Kennedy himself, and based on a book of the same name by Bashevis Singer.

The novel was originally written in Yiddish, so the music had a definite Jewish feel to it, as well as a large smattering of Jazz.

I must admit that parts of 'The Magician of Lublin' didn't really do it for me, but then other sections of the piece certainly did.  

For this, and the rest of the evening, Nigel Kennedy was joined by his excellent four piece band, enthusiastic and accomplished players all.

The interplay between the musicians was great, with Kennedy encouraging and willing them on all the time.

His frequent fist pumps with fellow band members may have grated a bit at times, but it was obvious that all on stage were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Mention should also be made of the excellent sound throughout the show. The start was delayed slightly, apparently due to Nigel Kennedy's insistence on getting the sound just right. It was well worth the wait.

During the evening Kennedy talked about the music he was performing, and his reasons behind playing it, often in an amusing manner.

He also paid tribute to two of his mentors Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli, and spoke of his passion for the music he was playing.

After an interval we were treated to a selection of songs by the Gershwins, which were chosen, seemingly at random, as the second set progressed.

Once again these pieces showcased the talent of Kennedy himself, including some great piano playing, something else I didn't know about him.

His lightness of touch and feel when playing certain sections during the evening was quite something, even for a non violin player like myself.

The Gershwin pieces were also an opportunity for his band to show off their own talents, which they did with consummate ease.

The mixture of cello, double bass and twin guitars worked very well, and all were given a chance to shine.

His sense of fun was shown when the whole band played the second set wearing Aston Villa football shirts, confirming Kennedy's well known love of the team. He must be a very happy man now that his team are back in the Premier League.

Pressed for time there was just time to squeeze in a favourite ballad of Kennedy's before another deserved standing ovation brought an enjoyable evening to a close.

I can imagine that Nigel Kennedy may not be to everyone's tastes, due to his rather unique style and character, but he has introduced many new fans over the years to Classical, and now Jazz music, something which should be applauded.

I'm not sure I would have attended a concert like this if it wasn't for him, so thank you Nigel.

For more info about the Rye Jazz Festival visit:

To find out about upcoming events at the De La Warr Pavilion visit:


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