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Kenny Wheeler: A Long Time Ago

Glenn Astarita By

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Trumpeter, composer Kenny Wheeler is among the elite roster of jazz luminaries who have contributed to ECM Records’ success over the last few decades and following up the acclaimed “Angel Song” with Bill Frisell, Lee Konitz and Dave Holland, Wheeler brings us A Long Time Ago.

A modern day stylist, Kenny Wheeler has done it all, whether performing free-jazz, mainstream or mixing it up with brass ensembles which serves as the foundation and motivating factor behind A Long Time Ago. Along with the combined talents of the great pianist John Taylor, guitarist John Parricelli, a brass octet and conductor Tony Faulkner, Wheeler administers stately orchestrations/compositions while performing solely on his flugelhorn commencing with “The Long Time Ago Suite”. On this composition, Wheeler’s gorgeous tone, patented majestic-linear phrasing along with his deeply personalized touch or intonation that summons a feeling of “want” or “desire” sets the tone for this 31 minute epic. Here, the brass ensemble weave ornate tapestries through several movements as pianist John Taylor often provides the pulse, compensating for the absence of drums and bass while an understated sense of urgency prevails throughout. “Ballad For A Dead Child” as the title would suggest is a rather mournful eulogy yet the brass section and overall arrangement intimate a glimmer of hope as if this child is resting peacefully in the heavens – vivid imagery prevails; hence, a strikingly beautiful arrangement. “Going For Baroque”, is somewhat of a hybrid classical concerto coupled with jazz orientated brass arrangements as the inherent tonal qualities and multifaceted horn charts compliment the underlying structure of this piece. There is a slightly reworked version of “Gnu Suite” which is derived from Wheeler’s now classic 1975 ECM album titled, “Gnu High” as Kenny Wheeler continues his estimable legacy with this impressive and thoroughly enjoyable outing. Wheeler is in a class of his own – as A Long Time Ago illustrates that sentiment in radiant fashion. * * * *


Title: A Long Time Ago | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Blue Note


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