Jim Hall and Kenny Wheeler Big Band Double Bill
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Sunday 18th Nov. LJF. Preview by Jack Davies)
At this year’s London Jazz Festival, the best has definitely been saved till last. On the final day of the festival, the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall hosts two of the jazz world’s greatest octogenarians – Kenny Wheeler and Jim Hall.
Guitarist Jim Hall rarely visits the British capital – his last appearance was with Dave Holland in 2006. A living link to jazz history, Hall’s understated clean guitar tone has been heard alongside Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans. However, Hall is no museum piece – he has also collaborated with former student Bill Frisell, fellow guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
He appears with a New York trio of bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Anthony Pinciotti. “I like either duos or trios” he said recently, preferring the space which a smaller group offers. This space can also be heard in the detail of his playing – he says: “A phrase should have a destination, and you take a breath and let your brain – and maybe the audience – think about it.” Perhaps this is the trait which can be heard most clearly in those he has influenced, such as Frisell.
This concert presents a rare chance to hear those thoughtful, definitive phrases live on stage.
A chance to see Kenny Wheeler’s big band should also never be passed up – this is an ensemble that gathers together rarely, and each time it does feels like a special occasion. The band’s 2012 album is titled The Long Waiting – and aptly so – it is 22 years since Wheeler’s last big band album, the classic Music for Large and Small Ensembles was released.
Kenny Wheeler is treasured by the musicians around him, So much so that the band members themselves organised the two days of recording at Angel Studios last year, and put up the money for the sessions. Kenny had written a new suite of music for his 80 birthday tour, and the band felt that this music was so important, such a musical treasure, that documenting it as an album was an imperative.
These musicians themselves are the highest echelon of British jazz: John Taylor, Stan Sulzmann, Martin France and Henry Lowther. Judge a composer and musician like Wheeler by the company he keeps.
Kenny also maintains a close relationship with London’s Royal Academy of Music, due in no small part to his friendship with Nick Smart and Pete Churchill. The Academy recently acquired his archive of scores, and there is a free pre-concert performance of some of Kenny’s rarely heard works by the exceptionally good RAM Big Band.
Tickets £10-25 HERE