Kenny Wheeler

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Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler.jpg
Kenny Wheeler performing in 2007
Background information
Birth name Kenneth Vincent John Wheeler
Born (1930-01-14)14 January 1930
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died 18 September 2014(2014-09-18) (aged 84)
London, England, UK
Genres Avant-garde jazz, post bop,
chamber jazz, free improvisation
Occupations Composer, musician
Instruments Trumpet, flugelhorn
Years active 1950-2014
Labels ECM, Fontana, FMP, Soul Note,
PSI, CAM Jazz
Associated acts John Dankworth, Evan Parker, John Taylor, Azimuth, Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland, Globe Unity Orchestra, Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra

Kenneth Vincent John Wheeler, OC (14 January 1930 – 18 September 2014) was a Canadian composer and trumpet and flugelhorn player, based in the U.K. from the 1950s onwards.[1][2][3][4]

Most of his performances were rooted in jazz, but he was also active in free improvisation and occasionally contributed to rock music recordings. Wheeler wrote over one hundred compositions and was a skilled arranger for small groups and larger ensembles.

Wheeler was the patron of the Royal Academy Junior Jazz course.

Early life[edit]

Wheeler was born in Toronto, Ontario, on 14 January 1930. Growing up in Toronto, he began playing cornet at age 12, and became interested in jazz in his mid-teens. Wheeler spent a year studying composition at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto in 1950. In 1952 he moved to Britain. He found his way into the London jazz scene of the time, playing in groups led by Tommy Whittle, Tubby Hayes, and Ronnie Scott.

Career[edit]

In the late 1950s, he was a member of Buddy Featherstonhaugh's quintet together with Bobby Wellins. Throughout the sixties, he worked with John Dankworth, and also formed part of (Eric Burdon and) the Animals' Big Band that made its only public appearance at the 5th Annual British Jazz & Blues Festival in Richmond (1965) with tenors Stan Robinson, Dick Morrissey and Al Gay, baritone sax Paul Carroll, and fellow trumpets Ian Carr and Greg Brown. In 1968, Wheeler appeared on guitarist Terry Smith's first solo album, Fall Out.

Kenny Wheeler performing with the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble, 1992

Wheeler performed and recorded his own compositions with large jazz ensembles throughout his career, beginning with the first album under his own name, Windmill Tilter (1969), recorded with the John Dankworth band. A CD was released by BGO Records in September 2010. The big band album Song for Someone (1973) fused Wheeler's characteristic orchestral writing with passages of free improvisation provided by musicians such as Evan Parker and Derek Bailey, and was also named Album of the Year by Melody Maker magazine in 1975. It has subsequently been reissued on CD by Parker's Psi label.[5]

In the mid-1960s, Wheeler became a close participant in the nascent free improvisation movement in London, playing with John Stevens Parker, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and the Globe Unity Orchestra. Despite the above-noted accomplishments, much of his reputation rests on his work with smaller jazz groups. Wheeler's first small group recordings to gain significant critical attention were Gnu High (1975) and Deer Wan (1977), both for the ECM label (Gnu High is one of the few albums to feature Keith Jarrett as a sideman since his tenure with Charles Lloyd). One exception from the ongoing collaboration with ECM was his rare album on CBC called Ensemble Fusionaire in 1976. This had three other Canadian musicians and was recorded in St. Mary's Church in Toronto for a different character to the sound than on the ECM recordings.

Wheeler was the trumpet player in the Anthony Braxton Quartet from 1971 to 1976, and from 1977 he was also a member of the chamber jazz group Azimuth (with John Taylor and Norma Winstone).

Later life[edit]

In 1997 Wheeler received widespread critical praise for his album Angel Song, which featured an unusual "drummerless" quartet of Bill Frisell (guitar), Dave Holland (bass) and Lee Konitz (alto sax).

Wheeler died after a short period of frail health at a nursing home in London on 18 September 2014. He was 84 years old.[6]

Discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

Collaborations with John Taylor[edit]

As Azimuth[edit]

Other collaborations[edit]

+ with Chris Kase: " A Song We Once Knew" (Satchmo Jazz, 2000)

Featured[edit]

  • Robert 'Bob' Cornford, Tony Coe, Kenny Wheeler and the NDR 'Pops' Orchestra: Long Shadows (Chapter One, 2007; recorded 1979)
  • The Guildhall Jazz Band: Walk Softly (Wave, 1998; recorded 1987)
  • The Jurgen Friedrich Quartet Featuring Kenny Wheeler: Summerflood (CTI, 1998; reissued 2003)
  • Gordon Beck, Tony Oxley, Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, Ron Mathewson: Seven Steps To Evans (MPS, 1980)
  • Gordon Beck, Tony Oxley, Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, Dieter Ilg: A Tribute To Bill Evans (Image Entertainment DVD, filmed 1991, released 1999)
  • Tim Brady: Visions (Justin Time, 1988) with L'orchestre de chambre de Montréal
  • The Upper Austrian Jazzorchestra: Plays the Music of Kenny Wheeler (West Wind, 1996)
  • The Maritime Jazz Orchestra: Now and Now Again (Justin Time, 2002; recorded 1998) with Norma Winstone and John Taylor
  • UMO Jazz Orchestra: One More Time (A-Records, 2000) with Norma Winstone
  • Munich Jazz Orchestra: Sometime Suite (Bassic Sound, 2001)
  • Colours Jazz Orchestra: Nineteen Plus One (Astarte/Egea, 2009)

As sideman[edit]

With John Dankworth

With Philly Joe Jones

  • Mo'Joe (Black Lion, 1968)

With Collective Consciousness Society

with Paul Gonsalves

With Anthony Braxton

With Steve Coleman

With Wadada Leo Smith

With George Adams

With Ralph Towner

With Rainer Brüninghaus

with Bill Frisell

With Dave Holland Quintet

With David Sylvian

With Pierre Favre

  • Window Steps (ECM Records, 1995)

With John Abercrombie

With Joni Mitchell

References[edit]

External links[edit]