Personnel: Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn); Derek Bailey (guitar); Duncan Lamont (flute, tenor saxophone); Evan Parker (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Greg Bowen, Dave Hancock, Ian Hamer (trumpet); Dave Horler, Keith Christie, Chris Pyne, Bobby Lamb (trombone); Malcolm Griffiths (bass trombone); Alan Branscombe (piano, electric piano); John Taylor (electric piano); Tony Oxley (percussion).
Recording information: 01/10/1973-01/11/1973.
This recording has a split personality: much of it comes from a solid, 1970s jazz big band perspective, with occasional emblems of the era (such as electric piano), and consistently solid solos, especially from the leader, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. Vocalist Norma Winstone is a steady, energetic presence, and the ensemble responds with enthusiasm. She waxes gorgeously on Wheeler's "Song for Someone," while on "Ballad Two," Winstone luxuriates elegantly as Wheeler discriminatingly explores varied moods, and a magnificent sax solo closes it out. Wheeler is often known for his work in ensembles in which free improvisation is the unifying factor, but he has performed much more within a more traditional jazz context that manages to nudge the post-bop vocabulary ever so slightly, in much the way that another trumpeter, Dave Douglas, does. Evan Parker is added on "Causes Are Events" and "The Good Doctor," the latter on which Derek Bailey appears. "Causes Are Events" begins peacefully, but after a couple of minutes Parker bursts forth in what is even for him a remarkable demonstration of his abilities. He continues with unmitigated energy on the flag-raising "The Good Doctor," which might be confused with something from the Globe Unity Orchestra. The next piece, "Nothing Changes," again features the soothing voice of Winstone, with the big band regaling in Wheeler's sumptuous harmonies. Some might find it disconcerting that two seemingly disparate styles are juxtaposed together. Others will see it as evidencing the breadth of the music. Perhaps they should have called it The Two Sides of Kenny Wheeler, but that might have too constricting for this highly versatile performer. ~ Steven Loewy