Kenny Wheeler

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Windmill Tilter (1968), 7/10
Song for Someone (1973), 6/10
Gnu High (1975), 7.5/10
Deer Wan (1977), 7/10
Around 6 (1979), 7/10
Double Double You (1983), 7/10
Flutter By Butterfly (1987), 7/10
Widow in the Window (1990), 7/10
Music for Large and Small Ensemble (1990), 7/10
Kayak (1992), 7/10
Siren's Song (1996), 7/10
Angel Song (1996), 5/10
All the More (1998), 6/10
A Long Time Ago (1998), 6/10
Dream Sequence (2003), 5/10
What Now? (2004), 5.5/10
On the Way To Two (2005), 5.5/10
One of Many (2006), 5.5/10
Mirrors (2011), 6.5/10
Songs for Quintet (2013), 7/10

Canada-born trumpeter Kenny Wheeler (1930) moved to London in 1952 and joined John Dankworth's Boporchestra in 1959. His first major composition was Windmill Tilter (march 1968), a concept album on Cervantes' "Don Quixote" performed by Dankworth's big band. Wheeler simultaneously played jazz-rock in Mike Gibbs' orchestra (1969-75) as well as free jazz in John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble (1966-70), Tony Oxley's group (1969-72), Alexander von Schlippenback's Globe Unity Orchestra (1970) and Anthony Braxton's group (1971-76). Wheeler's own Song For Someone (january 1973) was an odd combination of Wheeler's split personas: a set of jazz songs featuring vocalist Norma Winstone and two lengthy free-jazz jams with saxophonist Evan Parker, Causes Are Events and The Good Doctor. The imbalance was healed on Gnu High (june 1975), particularly the 21-minute suite Heyoke, one of his artistic peaks, angelically performed by a quartet with Keith Jarrett on piano, Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Wheeler had coined his own personal version of elegant fusion jazz that acquired an almost mystical quality on Deer Wan (july 1977), featuring saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarists John Abercrombie and guitarist Ralph Towner, Holland and DeJohnette (Peace for Five, Sumother Song, Deer Wan). The sextet of Around 6 (august 1979), featuring Parker, trombonist Eje Thelin and vibraphonist Tom VanDerGeld, was more experimental (Mai We Go Around, Follow Down), but Double Double You (may 1983), featuring saxophonist Michael Brecker, pianist John Taylor, Holland and DeJohnette, returned to his lyircal suite format (the 23-minute Three for d'Reen/ Blue for Lou/ Mark Time, the 14-minute Foxy Trot).
In 1982 Wheeler joined Holland's quintet and neglected his own compositions and arrangements. At last, the quintet session of Flutter By Butterfly (may 1987) resurrected his lyrical extended ballads (Everybody's Song But My Own, Flutter By Butterfly). A quintet with Abercrombie, Taylor, Holland and drummer Peter Erskine crafted the six melodic abstractions of Widow in the Window (february 1990), particularly Ana.

But the real highlights of this season were the seven-movement Sweet Time Suite, off Music for Large and Small Ensemble (february 1990), Kayak (may 1992), featuring a ten-piece orchestra, and the 20-minute Little Suite, off Siren's Song (october 1996), two larger works that displayed Wheeler's skills at the border between neoclassical and free-jazz music.

Wheeler notably played on two albums by Lebanese oud player and composer Rabih Abou-Khalil, Blue Camel (may 1992) and The Sultan's Picnic (march 1994), both featuring altoist Charlie Mariano Mark Nauseef on drums, Milton Cardona on congas, Steve Swallow on bass plus Indian percussion.
After the mediocre Angel Song (february 1996), for a drum-less quartet with altoist Lee Konitz, guitarist Bill Frisell and Holland, and All The More (april 1998) the 32-minute A Long Time Ago Suite for brass ensemble and soloists, off A Long Time Ago (january 1998), sounded rather superficial compared to his classic suites.

Dream Sequence (2003) collects material recorded over a period of seven years. What Now? (june 2004) was a somewhat nostalgic set with Holland, Taylor and young tenor saxophonist Chris Potter.

On The Way To Two (march 2005) contained duets with pianist John Taylor.

One Of Many (july 2006) features a trio with pianist John Taylor and bassist Steve Swallow.

The 70-minute Mirrors (composed in 1993) for 7 sopranos, 8 altos, 5 tenors and 5 basses was premiered in 2011.

Songs For Quintet (december 2013) featured Stan Sulzmann (tenor sax), John Parricelli (guitar), Chris Laurence (double bass) and Martin France (drums).

Wheeler died in september 2014.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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