Ken Wessel is a versatile, sensitive and soulful guitarist and composer. A vital and personal voice on the jazz guitar, Wessel has been involved in projects playing jazz, ranging from straight-ahead to free music. Ken is also very interested in creating and investigating points of intersection between jazz and Indian music and has performed and recorded with musicians from various parts of the globe. He has performed in 27 countries at major jazz festivals, concert halls and in radio and television appearances.
Wessel worked with revolutionary jazz artist Ornette Coleman for over 12 years (1988-2000), touring the world as a member of Prime Time, Ornette’s groundbreaking ensemble. Ken can be heard on Ornette Coleman’s critically acclaimed Polygram/Verve CD, Tone Dialing. Performing “Skies of America,” Ornette Coleman’s seminal work for symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble, Ken has appeared with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. Ken can also be heard on Steely Dan frontman, Donald Fagen’s album, Morph the Cat as a featured guitar soloist. He has worked with artists from different shades of the jazz spectrum, including John Abercrombie, David Liebman, Gloria Lynne, Arthur and Red Prysock, Karl Berger, Steve Gorn, Adam Rudolph, Hamid Drake, Steve Turre and Johnny Hartmann.
Ken has a strong interest in world music, particularly with North Indian music, and he has performed with Debashish Bhattacharya, Karaikudi Mani, V.M. Bhatt, Samir Chatterjee and others. Wessel co-leads a trio with jazz tabla master Badal Roy and bassist Stomu Takeishi. Their CD, Daybreak, was included in JAZZIZ magazine’s Top 10 Critic’s Picks of 1998. They have performed together extensively throughout North America. In 1995, Ken and Badal toured India and the U.S. with their composition, “Testimony,” which was commissioned by the Battery Dance Company. As a U.S. Jazz Ambassador, Ken has toured South Asia and South America, visiting India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bengladesh and Venezuela in 2002-03.