Nigel Kennedy’s interpretation of Vivaldi’s ‘The four seasons’ became a best seller back in the 1980s and ever since the violinist has flirted with jazz, world roots and classical projects to critical acclaim. How, though, might the Vivaldi opus work as a fusion of folk, jazz and classical idioms? This is the conundrum that Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis set himself with his trio made up of guitarist NIgel Clark and double bassist Roy Percy, supplemented by additional strings as and where required. The result is a delicate balance of improvisation and a more faithful representation of Vivaldi’s work that will probably have classical music pundits fuming, but is likely to appeal to a wider audience that simply wants to hear quality music.
A graduate of the Amsterdam Conservatoire, Kliphuis had a chance encounter with maestro jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli that entirely changed his outlook on music and led to the Dutchman becoming deeply interested in improvisational music. To be clear, this is not a jazzed up take on Vivaldi that Jacques Loussier might have attempted. Rather, it is a combination of country folk, meets swing jazz and with classical elements that all come together cohesively.
In 1999, Kliphuis joined Belgian jazz manouche (gypsy jazz) guitarist Fapy Lafertin and started exploring this guitar tradition. This experience has unquestionably rubbed off on Kliphuis who on, ‘Summer II’, tears into a straight ahead swing performance after the solo double bass intro whereas, ‘Summer I’ comes across as the kind of vehicle that Grappelli would have excelled on. The much loved, ‘Spring I’, receives an uptempo country folk reading with improvised sections while on ‘Autumn II’, one can certainly hear the influence of Django Reinhardt with plucked violin strings. In a more meditative mood, ‘Spring II’ is more faithful to the classical baroque tradition, though where the violin plays a solo.
Is it classical? Jazz and non-classical critics would most likely reply: does it matter? Particularly if a personalised interpretation helps to enhance the quality of the music and offer new perspectives. In this endeavour, the music contained within wins out handsomely and even purists are left to dwell on how this differs from the original. Tim Kliphuis has ince performed with some of the jazz guitar greats and these include among others, Herb Geller, Bucky Pizzarelli and Martin Taylor, not forgetting one of the pioneers of the electric guitar, Les Paul.