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Long considered a holy grail of British jazz, trumpet legend/iconic composer Kenny Wheeler's classic 1969 Fontana leader debut, Windmill Tilter, has remained curiously out of printnever, in fact, appearing legitimately on CD.
Until now. Thanks to Andy Gray and BGO Recordsa label responsible for a wealth of 1960s and '70s British jazz reissuesWindmill Tilter is finally available on CD and it's been worth the wait. Not only does it find Wheelerlisted here as "Ken," a Canadian expat who, emigrating to England in the 1950s, quickly made it into the British jazz elite, despite an introverted nature that might have been self-limiting, had he not been such a remarkable playerin early fine form as a composer, but with the participation of saxophonist/bandleader John Dankworth
' electrified Lifetime band and on the trumpeter's iconic In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969).
While the majority of this 41-minute, nine-part suite, based on the life of Don Quixote, features an ensemble stretching to over 15 players, two quintet tracksWheeler, McLaughlin and Holland, along with saxophonist Tony Coe
and drummer John Spoonerpresage later exceptional small ensemble work, including Wheeler's award-winning Gnu High (ECM, 1976). Bolstered by Spooner's brushwork and Holland's already unshakable sense of swing on the ambling "Sweet Dulcinea Blue," McLaughlin's lengthy solo demonstrates early expertise in distinctive voicings, and navigating changes with lithe dexterity, while solos from Wheeler and Coe are shorter, but equally impressive. The shorter but more buoyant "Propheticape" again provides time for lucid solos from Wheeler, Coe and McLaughlin, the guitarist's comping an early sign of his equal but often less-lauded rhythmic acumen.
Wheeler's large ensemble pieces, constituting the bulk of the disc, foreshadow later large ensemble work like Song for Someone (Psi, 1973) and the more expansive Music for Large & Small Ensembles (ECM, 1990). If anything, Wheeler's emergent voice as a writer and player (here, solely on flugelhorn) is surprisingly well-formed, with the harmonic ambiguity and melancholic tinge of his later work already in evidence, albeit slightly more aligned with the American tradition at this point, though Tristan Fry's vibes lend a slightly ethereal off-balance to the greater weight of the horns and saxophones.
of our times."On the strength of the long overdue CD issue of Windmill Tilterreleased in time for Wheeler's 80th birthday in 2010it's hard to dispute the importance of a writer/trumpeter who, as early as this 1968 date, was well on his way to supporting his future collaborator's well-deserved accolade.
Track Listing: Preamble; Don the Dreamer; Sweet Dulcinea Blue; Bachelor Sam; Sancho; The Cave of Montesinos; Propheticape; Altisidora; Don No More.
Personnel: Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn; Derek Watkins: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Henry Shaw: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Henry Lowther: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Les Condon: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Chris Pyne: trombone: (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Mike Gibbs: trombone: (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); John Dankworth: saxophone (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Ray Swinfield: saxophone (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Tony Robert: saxophone (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Tony Coe: saxophone; Alf Reece: tuba (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Dick Hart: tuba (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Bob Corford: piano (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Alan Branscome: piano (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); John McLaughlin: guitar; Dave Holland: bass; John Spooner: drums; Tristan Fry: percussion (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9).