Kenny Wheeler: Songs for Quintet

Glenn Astarita By

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Track review of "Nonetheless"

Songs for Quintet marks celebrated Kenny Wheeler's final recording. He passed away on Sept 18, 2014. And while it's quite apparent that a lengthy illness zapped some of the trumpeter/flugelhornist's strength, his hallmark musical persona remained intact. Wheeler's yearning notes, distinctive phrasings and enchanting lyricism are resident throughout this production.

In the '70s, Wheeler was a catalyst that helped define ECM Records new wave, forward-looking vision and audio aesthetic, complemented by the label's fine art- based album covers. Milestone releases such as Gnu High (1975) and Deer Wan (1977) are pivotal albums that established his deeply personalized artistic paradigms framed in numerous jazz-related vernaculars.

The quintet executes a fusion of mid-tempo motifs, expressive ballads and inspiring choruses, often dappled with the soloists' velvety lines and thematic developments that float atop the crisp rhythms. Yet "Nonetheless," is one of the more interesting works, launched by guitarist John Parricelli's nimbly articulated intro that segues into unison choruses with Wheeler and contrapuntal voicings by ace saxophonist Stan Sulzmann. Moreover, the rhythm section implements a darting Latin- shaded undercurrent, sparking a buoyant foundation, although the principle melody is not framed on the Latin jazz element. These aspects deliver an interesting set of contrasts, where the ensemble gradually raises the pitch, framed on Wheeler and Sulzmann's weaving notes and intensifying delivery.

The offsetting metrics gently propel a horde of harmonizing variables that typify Wheeler's imaginative and inimitable approach to jazz composition. Indeed, he was a source of inspiration to legions of jazz enthusiasts and musicians, and will be sorely missed.

Track Listing: Seventy Six; Jigsaw; The Long Waiting; Canter No.1; Sly Eyes; 1076; Old Time; Pretty Liddle Waltz; Nonetheless.

Personnel: Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn; Stan Sulzman: tenor saxophone; John Parricelli: guitar; Chris Laurence: double bass; Martin France: drums.

Title: Songs for Quintet | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: ECM Records

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