Kenny Wheeler/Colours Orchestra: Nineteen Plus One | CD review

(Astarte)

Kenny Wheeler, the British Canadian-expat trumpeter and composer, was 77 when he made this album two years ago, but if time now marginally narrows his power (he plays the more user-friendly flugelhorn throughout), his ­improvisations still sound like nobody else's – and his skills as a composer/­arranger seem to be blossoming afresh. Wheeler has had a regular association with Italy's accomplished Colours Jazz Orchestra, and he's the principal soloist and conceptual master of this fine ­session, featuring seven standards and one original. There's a recurring pattern, in which loose, often understated and time-juggling overtures evolve into grooving solo sections and then exultant finales, in which the orchestra is given a new set of rich collective variations on the original theme. But it never sounds like a formula, and the sonorities recall all kinds of large-scale jazz, from the Birth of the Cool music via Gil Evans to Maria Schneider. A new star in ­Wheeler's dark-blue firmament is ­Italian singer Diana Torto, a pure-toned ­virtuoso Wheeler deploys as he does Norma Winstone – as an unmannered lyrics singer, as an improvising ­instrument, and as an extra horn within collective jams.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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