CD: Kenny Wheeler, It Takes Two!

(CamJazz)

This quartet joins the melancholy romanticism of Kenny Wheeler to two guitars (American John Abercrombie and Briton John Parricelli) and double bass (Swede Anders Jormin). All the songs are Wheeler's save for the theme from Spartacus, so it doesn't come as a surprise that nothing accelerates much beyond a light mid-tempo swing or a wryly balletic tango. Wheeler's tunes fascinate jazz improvisers because his harmonic palette is challengingly distinctive, while never intruding on the music's deceptive, softly-humming simplicity. Abercrombie plays mostly electric guitar and Parricelli nylon acoustic, but they interact as if they were regular partners, and the quartet's ensemble sound - with Jormin taking a strongly countermelodic role, and sometimes being the theme-deliverer himself - reflects real empathy and receptiveness in the participants.

There's also a strongly southern European and Moorish feel about some of the music, as if Wheeler's sometimes remote persona has been warmed by the fruitful relationship with Italy's CamJazz label. The title track is a gentle tango, with Jormin anchoring the pulse and developing it as an improvisation, and the wistfully moving ballad on Comba N.3 curls Wheeler's dolorous ruminations around the guitars. Overdubbing is used briefly for a Wheeler brass fanfare, Abercrombie has a deliciously singing solo on Spartacus, and Parricelli a very inventive electric one after the sighing long-note melody of After All. There are two free improvisations (in which Abercrombie gets almost raunchily Scofield-like) but though the mood of this set tends to the triste, there's a lot of movement in the depths below its gently undulating surface.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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