Kenny Wheeler

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COMPOSERS: Kenny Wheeler
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Songs for Quintet
WORKS: Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn), Stan Sulzmann (saxophone), John Parricelli (guitar), Chris Laurence (double bass), Martin France (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: 470 4653

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Kenny Wheeler, who died last year at 84, was always a shy and diffident type. So it says something about the quality of his playing and writing that he was nevertheless a fixture on the European jazz scene for over 50 years.

Eighty-three when this was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London, Wheeler sounds true to his age and his lines waver more than a little. It doesn’t matter because the old master’s creative instincts are totally intact, as is his lyrical, golden tone. He picked some of his favourite players for this last date and their sympathetic but flowing approach to the leader’s original tunes is flawless: guitarist Parricelli stands out for his Jim Hall-like elegantly mellow sound; saxist Sulzmann for his tender but assured shepherding of the music. Yet Wheeler’s still the reluctant star and this, his superb swansong, is destined to be an ECM classic.
 

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Garry Booth