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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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KENNY WHEELER

Six for Six

Cam Jazz CAMJ 7866-2

 

 

1. Seven, Eight, Nine (Part 1)

2. Canter N.6

3. The Long Waiting

4. Four, Five, Six

5. Ballad N.130

6. Seven, Eight, Nine (Part 2)

7. The Imminent Immigrant

8. Upwards

 

Kenny Wheeler - Trumpet, flugelhorn

Stan Sulzmann - Tenor sax, soprano sax

Bobby Wellins - Tenor sax

John Taylor - Piano

Chris Laurence - Bass

Martin France - Drums

 

The label Cam Jazz, part of the Italian-based KEPACH Music, has played a major part in Kenny Wheeler's late career. A duo with John Taylor was recorded in 2004 and this was followed by What Now?, released in 2006, which received a Grammy nomination. Last year, the magnificent, but occasional big band, that the octogenarian trumpeter leads, was recorded by Cam Jazz under the title The Long Waiting. Now comes this further release, recorded back in 2008, which features five of the Wheeler originals on the big band CD in the context of a small group.

Fascinatingly, this ensemble includes Bobby Wellins, not usually associated with Wheeler, and his presence adds significant value to this CD. The other four musicians are regular associates of Wheeler; indeed, the partnership with pianist John Taylor goes back decades and the musical empathy they share is one of the glories of contemporary British jazz.

All seven compositions (one being recorded in two parts) are by Wheeler who has an enviable ability to create simple, but memorable tunes such as Canter N.6 and Four, Five, Six. The titles may be unexciting but the tunes make ideal starting points for high quality improvisation. Unlike the big-band CD, when his playing has moments of fragility, Wheeler is in top form here making dramatic use of brief bursts of burnished sound. Sulzmann contributes some powerful solos on tenor and soprano, and the masterfully subtle Wellins is in inspired form making greater use than normal of the lower pitch of his instrument.

Taylor and Laurence, both as soloists and accompanists, are excellent and my only slight reservation is that drummer France is a tad over-busy at times.

Taken together, this CD and the big band CD, The Long Waiting, are not just essential additions to any Wheeler collection but two of the finest recordings of contemporary British jazz of recent years.

George Stacy



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