Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Kenny Wheeler

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Occupation(s)  Composer, musician
Role  Composer
Name  Kenny Wheeler
Years active  1950-2014
Instruments  Trumpet, flugelhorn

Kenny Wheeler exposeorgassetsimgfeatures2237KennyWheelerjpg
Birth name  Kenneth Vincent John Wheeler
Born  14 January 1930 Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1930-01-14)
Genres  Avant-garde jazz, post bop, chamber jazz, free improvisation
Labels  ECM, Fontana, FMP, Soul Note, PSI, CAM Jazz
Died  September 18, 2014, London, United Kingdom
Education  Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music
Albums  Songs for Quintet, Gnu High, Music for Large & Small En, Angel Song, Double - Double You

An interview with kenny wheeler composer and jazz trumpet player

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.


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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 large ensembles.

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

Kenny wheeler part 1 opening the sweet time suite

Early life

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.


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.

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.

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

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.

As leader

  • 1968: Windmill Tilter (Fontana) with The John Dankworth Orchestra
  • 1973: Song for Someone (Incus)
  • 1975: Gnu High (ECM)
  • 1976: Ensemble Fusionaire (CBC)
  • 1977: Deer Wan (ECM)
  • 1980: Around 6 (ECM)
  • 1984: Double, Double You (ECM)
  • 1988: Flutter By, Butterfly (Soul Note)
  • 1988: Visions (Justin Time)
  • 1990: Music for Large & Small Ensembles (ECM)
  • 1990: The Widow in the Window (ECM)
  • 1992: Kayak (Ah Um)
  • 1997: All the More (Soul Note, recorded 1993)
  • 1997: Angel Song (ECM)
  • 1999: A Long Time Ago (ECM)
  • 2003: Dream Sequence (Psi), recorded 1995–2003)
  • 2005: What Now? (CAM Jazz)
  • 2006: It Takes Two! (CAM Jazz)
  • 2008: Other People (CAM Jazz) with Hugo Wolf String Quartet featuring John Taylor
  • 2011: One of Many (CAM Jazz) with John Taylor and Steve Swallow
  • 2012: The Long Waiting (CAM Jazz)
  • 2013: Mirrors (Edition Records) London Vocal Project with Norma Winstone
  • 2013: Six for Six (CAM Jazz, recorded 2008)
  • 2015: Songs for Quintet (ECM, recorded 2013)
  • Collaborations with John Taylor

  • with Norma Winstone, Paolo Fresu, Paolo Damiani, Tony Oxley: Live at Roccella Jonica (Ismez Polis, 1985)
  • featuring Gabriele Mirabassi: Moon (Egea, 2001)
  • with Riccardo Del Fra: Overnight (Sketch, 2002)
  • Where Do We Go from Here (CAM Jazz, 2005)
  • Pause, and Think Again
  • As Azimuth

  • Azimuth (ECM, 1977)
  • The Touchstone (ECM, 1978)
  • with Ralph Towner: Départ (ECM, 1979)
  • Azimuth '85 (ECM, 1985)
  • How It Was Then... Never Again (ECM, 1994)
  • with The Maritime Jazz Orchestra: Siren's Song (Justin Time, 1997)
  • Other collaborations

  • wrote/arranged "Ballad to Max" on Maynard Ferguson's album M.F. Horn (Columbia, 1970)
  • arranged "Fire and Rain", "My Sweet Lord", and "Your Song" on Maynard Ferguson's album Alive & Well in London (Columbia, 1971)
  • arranged "Theme from Summer of '42" and wrote/arranged "Free Wheeler" on Maynard Ferguson's album M.F. Horn Two (Columbia, 1972)
  • with Elton Dean and Joe Gallivan: The Cheque Is in the Mail (Ogun, 1977)
  • with Günter Christmann, Gerd Dudek, Albert Mangelsdorff, Paul Rutherford, Manfred Schoof: Horns (FMP, 1979)
  • with Gordon Beck, Tony Oxley, Stan Sulzmann, Ron Mathewson: Seven Steps to Evans (MPS, 1980)
  • with Tiziana Simona: Gigolo (ITM, 1986)
  • with Claudio Fasoli, Jean-François Jenny Clark, Daniel Humair: Welcome (Soul Note, 1987)
  • with Claudio Fasoli and Jean-François Jenny Clark: Land (Innowo/New Sound Planet, 1989)
  • with Gordon Beck, Tony Oxley, Stan Sulzmann, Dieter Ilg: A Tribute to Bill Evans (Image Entertainment DVD, filmed 1991, released 1999)
  • with Jeff Gardner, Hein van de Geyn, André Ceccarelli: California Daydream (Musidisc, 1992)
  • with David Friedman, Jasper van't Hof: Greenhouse Fables (Sentemo, 1992)
  • with Paolino Dalla Porta, Stefano Battaglia, Bill Elgart: Tales (Soul Note, 1993)
  • with Rabih Abou Khalil - Sultan's Picnic, Enja Records, 1994)
  • with Paul Bley: Touché (Justin Time, 1996)
  • with Sonny Greenwich: Live at the Montreal Bistro (Justin Time, 1998)
  • with Brian Dickinson: Still Waters [Hornblower, 1999)
  • with Fred Hersch, Norma Winstone, Paul Clarvis: 4 in Perspective (Village Life, 2000)
  • with Marc Copland and John Abercrombie: That's for Sure (Challenge, 2001)
  • with Stan Sulzmann and John Parricelli: Ordesa (Symbol, 2002)
  • with Bob Brookmeyer: Island (Artists House, 2003)
  • with Enrico Pieranunzi, Chris Potter, Charlie Haden & Paul Motian: Fellini Jazz (CAM Jazz, 2003)
  • with Marc Copland and John Abercrombie: Brand New (Challenge, 2004)
  • with Tony Coe, John Edwards, Alan Hacker, Sylvia Hallett, Marcio Mattos, Evan Parker, Philipp Wachsmann: Free Zone Appleby 2003 (PSI, 2004)
  • with Gerd Dudek, Paul Dunmall, John Edwards, Tony Levin, Tony Marsh, Evan Parker, Paul Rogers, Philipp Wachsmann: Free Zone Appleby 2005 (PSI, 2006)
  • with Evan Parker, Paul Dunmall, Tony Levin, John Edwards: Live at the Vortex, London (Rare Music, 2011)
  • with Evan Parker, Steve Beresford, John Edwards, Louis Moholo-Moholo: Foxes Fox: Live at the Vortex (PSI, 2012)
  • 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 Jürgen Friedrich Quartet Featuring Kenny Wheeler: Summerflood (CTI, 1998; reissued 2003)
  • 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

    With Tommy Smith

  • Azure (Linn, 1995)
  • With John Abercrombie

  • Open Land (ECM, 1998)
  • With George Adams

  • Sound Suggestions (ECM, 1979)
  • With Pepper Adams

  • Conjuration: Fat Tuesday's Session (Reservoir, 1983 [1990})
  • With the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra

  • Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (Conducted by Alexander von Schlippenbach) (ECM, 1990)
  • With Anthony Braxton

  • The Complete Braxton (Freedom, 1971 [1973])
  • Quartet: Live at Moers Festival (Ring, 1974 [1976])
  • New York, Fall 1974 (Arista, 1974)
  • Five Pieces 1975 (Arista, 1975)
  • The Montreux/Berlin Concerts (Arista, 1975-6)
  • Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (Arista, 1976)
  • Creative Orchestra (Köln) 1978 (hatART, 1978 [1995])
  • With Jakob Bro

  • 2011: Bro/Knak (Loveland)
  • With Bill Bruford

  • Feels Good to Me (EG, 1978)
  • With Rainer Brüninghaus

  • Freigeweht (ECM, 1980)
  • With Steve Coleman

  • Rhythm in Mind (Novus, 1991)
  • With Collective Consciousness Society

  • C.C.S. (RAK, 1970)
  • With Graham Collier

  • Deep Dark Blue Centre (Deram, 1967)
  • Hoarded Dreams (Cuneiform, 1983 [2007])
  • With John Dankworth With Pierre Favre

  • Window Steps (ECM, 1995)
  • What the Dickens! (Fontana, 1963)
  • With Bill Frisell

  • Rambler (ECM, 1985)
  • With Globe Unity Orchestra

  • Globe Unity 67 & 70 (Atavistic, 2001), 1970 recording only
  • Live in Wuppertal (FMP, 1973)
  • Hamburg '74 with the NDR Chor (FMP, 1979)
  • Evidence Vol. 1 (FMP, 1976; reissued on Rumbling, 1991)
  • Into the Valley Vol. 2 (FMP, 1976; reissued on Rumbling, 1991)
  • FMP S 6...Plus (FMP, digital download, 2012)
  • Jahrmarkt/Local Fair (Po Torch, 1977)
  • Improvisations (JAPO/ECM, 1977)
  • Compositions (JAPO/ECM, 1979)
  • Intergalactic Blow (JAPO, 1983)
  • 20th Anniversary (recorded 1986, FMP, 1993)
  • 40 Years (Intakt, 2007)
  • With Paul Gonsalves

  • Humming Bird (Deram, 1970)
  • With Dave Holland Quintet

  • Jumpin' In (ECM, 1984)
  • Seeds of Time (ECM, 1985)
  • The Razor's Edge (ECM, 1987)
  • With Philly Joe Jones

  • Mo'Joe (Black Lion, 1968)
  • With Chris Kase
  • A Song We Once Knew (Satchmo Jazz, 2000)
  • With Joni Mitchell

  • Travelogue (Nonesuch, 2002)
  • With Louis Moholo-Moholo

  • Spirits Rejoice! (Ogun, 1978)
  • With Wadada Leo Smith

  • Divine Love (ECM, 1978)
  • With David Sylvian

  • Brilliant Trees (Virgin, 1984)
  • Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities (Virgin, 1985)
  • Gone to Earth (Virgin, 1986)
  • Dead Bees on a Cake (Virgin, 1999)
  • With Ralph Towner

  • Old Friends, New Friends (ECM, 1979)
  • References

    Kenny Wheeler Wikipedia