Angel Song

COMPOSERS: Kenny Wheeler
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Kenny Wheeler
PERFORMER: Kenny Wheeler (t, flug); Lee Konitz (as); Dave Holland (b); Bill Frisell (g)
CATALOGUE NO: J607 533 098-02

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It is initially surprising to see these names together. Each is a class improviser – instantly recognisable and much in demand on other top people’s dates. The two horn players are venerable misfits who grew up into, and then quickly out of, Fifties bebop.

Holland and Frisell, on the other hand, are more closely associated with a later generation of ‘post-modern’ jazz. Yet, as soon as the music starts, the conjunction makes perfect sense. The tunes and arrangements all come from Wheeler. They are characteristically thoughtful and make the perfect palette for a cool improviser like Konitz. The pair sound right together: Wheeler’s tone is bruised yet burnished while the Konitz alto has a gentle, flute-like quality.

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The material suits Holland and Frisell too. Frisell, especially, finds a melancholic soulmate in Wheeler, but his phrases carry less bathos against Holland’s plangent accompaniment. It is not an uplifting session: the tempo is unvaried and minor keys predominate. But as an example of what can be achieved by improvisers with good ears, it is a gem. GB