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Kenny Wheeler: Gnu High


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Kenny Wheeler: Gnu High
Trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer Kenny Wheeler's exalted Gnu High, first released in 1976, is one of two albums with which ECM launches its audiophile vinyl reissue series, Luminessence, on April 28, 2023.

The Luminessence mission statement is to showcase albums that have "changed perceptions of creative music making." And few would dispute this summation of the first batch of releases (listed below). Some of the albums will be presented in facsimile editions, others—such as Gnu High—in gatefold sleeves that include new liner notes.

Made with a quartet completed by pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Gnu High was Wheeler's ECM debut and, remarkably, his first album leading a small band. Remarkably, because when it was recorded, in 1975, the Canadian-born, London-based Wheeler was already 45 years old and had long been considered as first among equals by many other British brass players.

But while others recognized his greatness, Wheeler was always more conscious of imagined weaknesses than he was of his actual strengths. This self-deprecation endured right up until he passed in 2014, informing the character of his melodic, sinewy and resolutely unflashy music. British trumpeter Nick Smart's sleeve essay reveals that while Wheeler chose Gnu High's opening track, "Heyoke," for a possible ECM :rarum collection that never came to fruition—"mostly for the beautiful interlude Keith plays between parts one and two"—his handwritten notes go on to describe one of the many moments of adventurous group improvisation with ..."although I can still hear the terrible moment when I got lost!"

For we mere mortals, however, jazz rarely gets closer to perfection than it does on Gnu High, and it has never sounded finer than on this Luminessence pressing.

Nana Vasconcelos' Saudade (1979) will be released simultaneously with Gnu High. Other titles selected for Luminessence release in 2023 include Jan Garbarek's Afric Pepperbird (1971), Anouar Brahem's Madar (1994), Gary Burton's The New Quartet (1973), Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell's Old And New Dreams (1979) and, of course, Garbarek's Luminessence (1975). More will follow.

Track Listing

Heyoke; Smatter; Gnu Suite.


Album information

Title: Gnu High | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: ECM Records



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