Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Kenny Wheeler: Gnu High

16

Kenny Wheeler: Gnu High

By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Personnel

Album information

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

Comments

Tags


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

More

Being
Chris Rottmayer
Town of Two Faces
The Choir Invisible with Charlotte Greve, Vinnie...
They Tried to Kill Me Yesterday
Paul R. Harding / Michael Bisio / Juma Sultan
Eagle's Point
Chris Potter

Popular

Jazz Hands
Bob James
Esengo
London Afrobeat Collective
Light Streams
John Donegan - The Irish Sextet

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.