CD: Kenny Wheeler/ John Taylor, Where Do We Go From Here?

(CamJazz)

In January, Kenny Wheeler turns 75, and the title of this duo album on Italy's CamJazz label very likely sums up his attitude to the landmark day. The Toronto-born trumpeter, flugelhorn player and composer has been quietly but progressively inventive all his life (the British jazz scene has been the main beneficiary, since his move here in 1952), and that hasn't changed since he entered his 70s. As with Chet Baker later in life, slight hesitancies of pitching and intonation now seem only to add deeper timbres of humanity to Wheeler's voice, which can be remote at times. The music here, however, is anything but distant, with Wheeler's improvising on 10 songs (mostly originals) full of glancing ambiguities and softly startling turns. Pianist John Taylor is dazzling all the way through, without disrupting the fragile romanticism of his composing partner's muse.

Wheeler balances idiosyncratic melodic journeys with shrewdly placed accents and his trademark falsetto squeal on the only imported piece (Summer Night), with Taylor first patrolling supportively around him, then launching into a solo flood of time-changes, percussive sounds, classical rhapsodies and ambiguous chords. Taylor's plangent Au Contraire and the dignified dance of Canter exemplify this session's mix of improvisational inventiveness and harmonic audacity. The title track is a lost-and-found exercise, the irresolute steps of its opening becoming firmer as the theme unfolds, and Taylor's steadily pulsing Dance deploys colourful trumpet overdubs. Ostensibly low-key and twilit music, but a quiet turmoil of invention beneath.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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