Recent Listening: Kenny Wheeler

Kenny Wheeler, One Of Many (CamJazz).

Wheeler, on flugelhorn, penetrates the album’s air of thoughtful melancholy with the pungency of his interval leaps, harmonic adventures and shadings of tone. Seventy-six when this was made (he is now 81), his daring was as undiminished as his rapport with pianist John Taylor. Their collaborations have involved big bands, duets and groups of all sizes in between. Taylor’s touch and chordal sensitivity have much to do with the choices Wheeler makes in his improvisations. Their affinity is striking throughout, nowhere more than in the bright counterpoint of “Canter # 5” and the final deep chords of “Old Ballad.”

Bassist Steve Swallow joins them here, adding a third voice and his versatility. Swallow was one of the first bassists after Monk Montgomery to be as convincing on the electric instrument as on the acoustic. He creates not only bass lines of distinctive rhythmic power and tonal purity but also, on “Aneba,” “Fortune’s Child” and “Old Ballad,” middle- and upper-register “guitar” solos of considerable lyricism.

Wheeler, one of the most admired composers in jazz, wrote the ten pieces. They combine into a whole that has the qualities of a suite. Some of the titles—”Now and Now Again,” “Ever After,” “Old Ballad”—match the album’s sense of pensive nostalgia, but when Wheeler rips one of his bracing slides into the stratosphere or takes a surprise harmonic sidetrip, we are very much in the present with an ageless musician.

For a Rifftides review of a previous Wheeler album and another in his honor, go here.

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  1. says

    I don’t know this record, but I like very much the album Rue de Seine, a duet between Martial Solal and Dave Douglas—wonderful. Coincidentely, the CD is a production of CamJazz, a very nice record company (I have some CamJazz CDs of Enrico Pieranunzi and Francesco Cafiso too, and they are fantastic).

    I’m a Brazilian fan of jazz and run a blog called Jazz + Bossa + Baratos Outros.
    I’d like to invite you and your readers to come to my blog and exchange experiences and information. Thanks for your attention and sorry my bad English.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Obrigado, senhor,

      Your English is vastly better than my Portuguese. I’m sure that your well organized and colorful blog will be of interest to Rifftides readers who know your language. We owe your country much for its great music. Viva o Brasil.

  2. says

    Man, do I love the music of Kenny Wheeler. The first time I heard ‘Opening-Part 1’ on Music for Large & Small Ensembles I couldn’t believe my ears. Truth be told, I still can’t! Thanks as always Doug.