Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) was an unassuming giant of modern jazz, a daring improviser, and a writer of many beautiful and slyly unorthodox tunes. His recorded legacy includes albums now regarded as contemporary jazz classics such as Gnu High, Deer Wan, and Music For Large And Small Ensembles. In December 2013 he recorded what was to be his last album. Songs for Quintet, an inspirational session featuring Wheeler compositions of recent vintage (plus a fresh approach to "Nonetheless", first heard on Angel Song), was recorded in London's Abbey Road Studio with four of Kenny's favorite players. Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli, Chris Laurence and Martin France work together marvelously as an interactive unit, solo persuasively, and provide support for the tender and lyrical flugelhorn of the bandleader. Songs for Quintet is issued on January 13, 2015, the day before what would have been Kenny Wheeler's 85th birthday.
In December 2013 'Kenny Wheeler recorded what was to be his last album. Songs for Quintet, an inspirational session featuring Wheeler compositions of recent vintage (plus a fresh approach to "Nonetheless", first heard on Angel Song), was recorded in Abbey Road Studio with four of Kenny's favorite players. Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli, Chris Laurence and Martin France work together marvellously as an interactive unit and provide support for the tender and lyrical flugelhorn of the bandleader.
Expedition Audio Recommended
The first thing this disc reveals is a tentative yet poignant quality to Kenny’s flugelhorn playing. The contrast between his airy tone and the sharper, more precise tenor saxophone of Stan Sulzmann creates an intergenerational dialogue unlike anything I have heard lately. You can liken it to an older, more experienced voice leading the way for a knowing but less experienced acolyte. The attentive, appreciative listener will find this captivating upon repeated plays. This, together with the brilliant yet sensitive rhythm section, creates an album all the more engaging with each and every spin. read more
Personnel: Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn); John Parricelli (guitar); Stan Sulzmann (tenor saxophone); Chris Laurence (double bass); Martin France (drums).
Recording information: Abbey Road Studios, London (12/2013).
Photographer: Caroline Forbes.
Recorded nine months prior to his death in September 2014, Kenny Wheeler's Songs for Quintet is the acclaimed jazz trumpeter's last studio album. Produced by ECM's Manfred Eicher at London's Abbey Road Studios with a handful of Wheeler's closest musical associates, Songs for Quintet is an intimate, lyrical session that exemplifies all that made Wheeler such a distinctive voice in jazz. Joining Wheeler here are tenor saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, guitarist John Parricelli, bassist Chris Laurence, and drummer Martin France. These musicians all played with Wheeler in various configurations over the last ten years of his life, resulting in an album made with love by a band of like-minded and sympathetic artists who clearly share a deep affection for Wheeler's music. Mixing acoustic and electric sounds, Wheeler and his band play with a hushed yet vigorous interplay and reverence for melodicism while still allowing plenty of room to flirt with modal dissonance and the occasional bristle of electric guitar fuzz. Wheeler (who would have been 85 years old at the time of release) plays flügelhorn throughout and delves into each number with a warm fragility that belies his adventurous harmonies and free-flowing lyrical ideas. In many ways, the album fits alongside the best of his ECM works such as 1975's Gnu High and 1977's Deer Wan. And while there are certainly newer compositions here, it's fascinating to hear Wheeler return to older material, such as the expansive "Nonetheless" from 1996's Angel Song and "Old Time," a frenetic carry-over from his Azimuth trio. Ultimately, Songs for Quintet is a beautiful and poignantly subtle farewell from one of the quiet giants of jazz. ~ Matt Collar
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