Jimi Hendrix... on violin and viola - Nigel Kennedy

Jimi Hendrix… on violin and viola – Nigel Kennedy

Nigel Kennedy, Mike Stern and three others began this year’s edition of Summer Jazz Festival in Kraków, playing Jazz arrangements of Jimi Handrix’s compositions. This was the pre-premiere of Nigel Kennedy’s special project he prepares for next year’s 50th anniversary of the master of guitar’s death.

The Friday concert was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion to satiate one’s curiosity how Hendrix’s rock’n’roll classics would sound if played on bowed instruments (in addition to guitar, of course).
In this opening concert of Summer Jazz Festival in Kraków, Nigel Kennedy proved that the aggressive songs of Jimi Hendrix – the man who revolutionized the play style of electric guitar back in the 60s – do well as jazz covers. In fact the result was phenomenal, in part thanks to the concert-friendly stage of Jagiellonian University’s Auditorium Maximum.

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Nigel performed this musical experiment together with Mike Stern – one of the leading guitarists in jazz music. His guitar (whose lack would make a concert dedicated to Jimi Hendrix a very odd one) was the locomotive that drived this fantastic concert. The musicians presented a variety of interpretations that moved across many climates. From explosive Purple Haze played with dynamism and sharpness, through marvellously grating Foxy Lady, to the rock ballad Little Wing, which was decomposed into tender dialogues between instruments: Piotr Kułakowski’s contrabass, Tomek Nowak’s trumpet, Ed Richardson’s drums and Gabriella Swallow’s charming viola. Interestingly, Nigel switched his violin for piano in this song (Mike Stern didn’t put his guitar down at any point, but it was softer that time).

Another thing we will remember from the concert is Nigel Kennedy’s preference for direct and casual contact with the audience. He spent breaks between songs on jokes, shaking hands with people from the first row, answering questions shouted from further rows, even throwing someone something for a keepsake – perhaps a piece Mike Stern’s music sheet that fell down from his stand? As for guitar riffs that are the primary component of Hendrix’s music… it turned out they can be adequately replaced with violin riffs.

This was an incredibly intro to Summer Jazz Festival Kraków, one that gives positive attitude for the remainder.

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