Argentinian guitarist Guillermo Bazzola
's deep admiration for late flugelhornist and composer Kenny Wheeler
began to blossom back in 1979, when Bazzola was only 17 years old and first discovered the trumpet player's early oeuvre. His love for the Canadian pioneer of post-romantic jazz manifests itself in, among other things, the name of the independent label the guitarist created as an outlet for releasing his music. It's called "Gnu Town"a play on Wheeler's much revered 1975 studio album Gnu High
(ECM), featuring heavy-weights Keith Jarrett
, Dave Holland
and Jack DeJohnette
as sidemen. But Bazzola's dedication to his idol doesn't stop there. His newest album Lost & Found
, sub-captioned Some Thoughts on Kenny Wheeler
, carries the trumpeter's spirit in each bar and every note of the carefully wrought scores, whichaccording to the composer himselfrepresent none less than an "act of love" for Wheeler's music.
Compositionally, the ten Bazzola originals on the record tick all the boxes. As with Wheeler's signature writing, Bazzola's scores are wrapped in a mystical wistfulness, brought on not only from unconventional and sudden harmonic shifts but also from the way the quintet dramatically passes the leading torch from one instrument to another. Bazzola's band is composed of longtime collaborators Rodrigo Dominguez
on saxophone and Jeronimo Carmona
on bass (both already part of his summer quartet for the album Alas
(BAU Records) back in 2004), as well as Natalio Sued on tenor sax and Hernán Mandelman on drums. As can be expected from a homage to Wheeler, the musicians' virtuoso qualities are hidden within the way they bring the melodies to sing and breathe life into the group interplay, and don't simply rely on speed or technical dexterity.
Looking at the line-up, the lack of any horn becomes very apparent. The fact that the music couldn't sound any more like Kenny Wheeler seems all the more striking in view of that and can be regarded as a big compliment to the music's author, whose compositions appear to be channeling the youthfully experimental and rhythmically extravagant '70s Wheeler sound, as opposed to the trumpeter's latter day, somewhat more somberly romantic work.
Like something Wheeler could have written between Deer Wan
(ECM, 1978) and Around 6
(ECM, 1980), "K.W." sees Bazzola channeling his inner John Abercrombie
the guitarist who graces much of Wheeler's work and has been mentioned in connection with Bazzola's sound and style. A racing pulse through modal changes, the track finds the members of the quintet in a warm embrace, soloing with heart and vigor to guitar chops that alternate between calm and clean solos, exceptional comping and a short foray into more distorted territory. But seeing how focusing on one trait of the Canadian flugelhornist only could never represent his all-embracing musical approach, Bazzola has crafted a balanced mix of long-form, multi-themed compositions on the one hand, and gentle post-bop exercises that in return speak to the more melodically direct and elegant side of Kenny Wheeler.. "Farewell" or "Interwaltz" belong to the latter, while the title track's extensive crescendoing arc and driven forward motion captures the haunting aura of Wheeler's tasteful later outing the Widow in The Window
Bazzola's holistic approach to his compositions and his effort to reflect his idol within them speaks for itself. There's a level of detail in regard to the band's interplay as well as the music's arrangements and its melodically interwoven constitution that reaches far beyond an act of homage to another musician but merits its own place in the modern jazz canon. Thus, Lost & Found
not only proves that Bazzola is one of the most studious and in-depth scholars of Wheeler's music out there, but more importantly, the album demonstrates a virtuoso composer in his own right who has mastered his art in most accomplished fashion.
Celebration; Eternal Rain; A Smile for Kenny; Interwaltz; Lost & Found; Un poco más de tiempo; Melancholy; K.W.; Farewell; Universe.
Rodrigo Dominguez: saxophone, soprano.