World of Jazz 97 – A tribute to Kenny Wheeler

Another great jazz man has left us for the great gig in the sky.

Jazz trumpeter and flügelhornist Kenny Wheeler was one of the most reknowned players in the world of jazz. With a full, lovely tone and an astounding range, Wheeler was equally at home in fiery free jazz explorations, softer, more lyrical post-bop meditations and jazz-rock fusions.

He first came to notice  with John Dankworth’s orchestra at the 1959 Newport Festival and remained with that group until 1965. In 1966, Wheeler he embraced free jazz and joined John Stevens’ Spontaneous Music Ensemble for the next four years. He also played jazz-rock fusion with the Mike Gibbs Orchestra from 1969-1975,  with the Mike Westbrook band, and joined Tony Oxley’s sextet from 1969-1972. Wheeler was invited to join German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach’s groundbreaking free jazz big band the Globe Unity Orchestra in 1970, an association Wheeler maintained for some years afterwards.

During the first half of the ’70s, Wheeler played with Anthony Braxton. In 1975, he signed with the ECM label  where he stayed for over 25 years and recorded a series of albums which established him as a solo artist of note, and a featured sideman on some key albums in that labels’ history.  In 1976  he left Braxton and joined the trio Azimuth with Norma Winstone and John Taylor, who he would continue to work with in many different settings across his career. In 1983  he also began a four-year run with the Dave Holland Quintet, an association which was to continue for many years after the initial collaboration. He also cut some fine  recordings for the Justin Time and Soul Note later in the decade.

During the 2000s and 2010s, he recorded several dates for CAM Jazz, including 2008’s Other People with the Hugo Wolf String Quartet and 2011’s One of Many with Steve Swallow.

With a huge discography it is impossible to attempt to capture all of  this work so I have focused on his output from 1975 onwards.


  1. Kenny Wheeler – Smatter – Gnu High
  2. Bill Frisell – Rambler – Rambler
  3. Kenny Wheeler – The Widow In The Window
  4. John Abercrombie – Little Booker – Open Land
  5. Kenny Wheeler – Deer Wan – Deer Wan
  6. Leo Smith – Spirituals The Language Of Love – DIvine Love
  7. Kenny Wheeler – Angel Song – Angel Song
  8. Dave Holland – Wights Waits for Weights – The Razor’s Edge
  9. Kenny Wheeler – Ballad N.130 – Six for Six
  10. Enrico Pieranunzi – Amarcord – Fellini Jazz
  11. Kenny Wheeler – Verona – What Now?

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