Kenny Wheeler: Double, Double You (ECM 1262)

 

Kenny Wheeler
Double, Double You

Kenny Wheeler trumpet, fluegelhorn
Michael Brecker tenor saxophone
John Taylor piano
Dave Holland bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded May 1983 at Power Station, New York
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

One can always count on trumpeter Kenney Wheeler for three things: (1) rounded writing contrasted with pointed soloing, (2) an always-engaging sound, whether alone or surrounded by a large band, and (3) a perfect marriage with ECM production values. For this modest set, we get two epic cuts bookending two shorter ones, and the results do not disappoint. As if having the talents of Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Mike Brecker along for the ride weren’t enough, Wheeler is also joined by John Taylor, whose sweeping pianism tempers the trumpeter’s fire just enough to keep it from scalding us, and whose resplendence could alone carry the album. The potent lyricism of the entire congregation is on full display in “Foxy Trot.” Holland and DeJohnette bring on their own heat, as well as a live, exuberant energy to the proceedings that provides an ideal carpet of hot coals for Brecker’s carefully measured walk. After an unremarkable duet between Wheeler and Taylor (“Ma Bel”), he and Brecker spin a duet in “W. W.” that bowls us over once the rhythm section kicks in. The two horns are superbly attuned here, and Brecker in particular in his soaring solo, which burns up all of its available oxygen and leaves Holland to dance among the ashes. Last is a triptych of compositions that begins in bliss with Brecker and Taylor, wrought through by Wheeler’s sunshine and the glistening accents of DeJohnette and Holland. We also get an effervescent solo from Taylor, who draws the curtains around us like a silo of intimate memories. Wheeler’s resolutions seem to trace a life of contented solitude and bring closure to an album of high energy.

Wheeler hits his stride at every turn with his unabashed brand of exposition, which defines new sonic territory with every project. One could easy gush at length about his lyricism, but on this album we also get an even clearer sense his rhythmic sensibilities. Ignore the filler of “Ma Bel,” and you have an almost perfect album.

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