It's easy to forget how long Canadian-born Kenny Wheeler has been making music. This, the first of his infrequent large ensemble recordings, was originally released back in 1969, and some thirteen years prior to that he was working in the quintet of baritone saxophonist Buddy Featherstonhaugh.
Windmill Tilter offers the best of both worlds: not only is there Wheeler's highly distinctive writing for large ensemble, but there are a couple of quintet tracks, featuring Wheeler in the company of tenor saxophonist Tony Coea stylist as distinctive as anyone out there.
'Sweet Dulcinea Blue' is one of them, and it's an object lesson in how to extract colors from a small group. This comes to fruition in no small measure because of the distinct personalities of the musicians involved. Guitarist John McLaughlin was ostensibly still in the formative stage of his musical life, but his solo is a model of grace. it could hardly be any other way, given the lyrical qualities of the composition, a factor emphasized by the keening quality of Wheeler's flugelhorn outing.
The foreboding quality of "Sancho" serves unsurprisingly musical ends, topped off by an alto sax solo by John Dankworth, that encapsulates how he might have been an influence on Mike Osborne prior to that singular talent finding his own voice.
Set against it, "The Cave Of Montesinos" highlights how well-formed Wheeler's musical personality is, even at this stage, its atmosphere never dissipating, thanks, in large part, to the presence of a tuba in the ensemble. Wheeler again turns in a solo as quietly compelling as anything he's ever done, also highlighting how he never seems to be a man in a hurry. As a consequence, what he has to say comes out stimulating and ripe.
But ultimately, this is one of those releases that transcends the ample qualities of the music because, along with something like Tubby Hayes's Mexican Green (Universal, 1967), it highlights how British jazzor, perhaps, that should be Commonwealth jazz, given Wheeler's Canadian origincame of age at a time when such a development didn't seem like a foregone conclusion. Graham Collier was forging his identity at the same time too, which only goes to show how long it is since jazz became an international language, especially in view of the decades prior to that time in which it was also taking place.
Track Listing: Preamble; Don the Dreamer; Sweet Dulcinea Blue; Bachelor Sam; Sancho; The Cave of Montesinos; Propheticape; Altisidora; Don No More.
Personnel: Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn; Derek Watkins: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Henry Shaw: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Henry Lowther: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Les Condon: trumpet (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Chris Pyne: trombone: (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Mike Gibbs: trombone: (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); John Dankworth: saxophone (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Ray Swinfield: saxophone (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Tony Robert: saxophone (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Tony Coe: saxophone; Alf Reece: tuba (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Dick Hart: tuba (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Bob Corford: piano (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Alan Branscome: piano (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); John McLaughlin: guitar; Dave Holland: bass; John Spooner: drums; Tristan Fry: percussion (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9).
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.