Nigel Kennedy

East Meets East

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If the notion persists that Nigel Kennedy is the enfant terrible of classical music -- too rebellious or facile to be taken seriously -- then perhaps it is time to reconsider his categorization. Kennedy's varied interests certainly take him beyond the boundaries of the typical classical performer, and his performance style may be too flamboyant to suit some listeners' tastes. But East Meets East is far from shocking, if understood as an exploration of Eastern European music, presented in a fusion of popular styles without pandering to the classical audience with crossover concessions. Fans of world music and open-minded listeners of any stripe may find something to appreciate here. Appearing with the Polish folk band Kroke and surrounded by several guest artists of international reputation, Kennedy shows that his involvement with this ethnic music is honest, if not always inspired. His playing is forthright and spirited, but sometimes overdone, particularly when his electric violin solos wander into rock clichés. However, Kennedy's occasional excesses are counterbalanced by some fine, expressive playing, most memorably in his unaccompanied track Lost in Time. The musicians play well as an ensemble, perhaps most successfully in the vigorous dance style that reaches maximum frenzy in Kukush.

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