CD: Kenny Wheeler: Dream Sequence

(Psi)

A huge coup for saxophonist Evan Parker's independent label Psi, and the culmination of a unique eight-year recording project. Kenny Wheeler, a bold trumpet player who avoids standard songs or familiar licks, is an acquired taste for some. But it doesn't take much close listening to detect a shy exuberance under his melancholy music, and a sophistication that imparts a haunting ambiguity to his themes and liberates improvisers.

This music was recorded by Wheeler and five British jazz virtuosi, meeting at intervals from September 1995 onwards at London's Gateway Studios. The disc will go down as one of his classics. Stan Sulzmann's probing tenor suggests Wayne Shorter's mysterious musings on the opening Unti, against John Parricelli's floaty guitar chords. And although Wheeler sounds youthfully agile on Drum Sequence, the track is actually the most recent instance of his playing.

As ever with Wheeler, the music is the polar opposite of in-your-face, and most of the tempos are slow to middling. But the gentle harmonies are captivating. There is even a standard: Billy Strayhorn's A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing, which Wheeler delivers with evocative patience over a wide tonal range from soft high sounds to rich purrs. His unaccompanied solo on Hearken, recorded just before his 73rd birthday in January, shows how spontaneously creative he remains.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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