|Kenny Wheeler Big Band. LJF 2012.|
For ‘London premiere’ read homecoming, in two senses: Kenny Wheeler‘s suite of pieces for big band ‘The Long Waiting’, written in 2010 for an 80th birthday tour (plus one piece composed prior to 2010, Enowena commissioned by Lucas Schmid of WDR in Cologne) has been toured, recorded, issued as a CD. But tonight it got performed, at last, in Wheeler’s adoptive home town of London. That’s one homecoming. The music also came finally under the spell of the interpreter for whose voice it was probably written, deep down in the composer’s subconscious, namely Norma Winstone.
This band has had only one or two changes in personnel since 2010. It is made up of musicians dedicated to this music and to the task of conveying its importance. These are not just words: the musicians jointly contributed to the funding of the recording in September 2011. The musicians’ increasing familiarity with the music through playing it renders the case for it ever stronger. It has become more shaped, more lived-in, and ever more persuasive. The landings on the beginnings of the long sentences have complete conviction. A joyous sound which stays in the mind’s ear is Norma Winstone arriving in lockstep on a new phrase with the trumpets. And – go on, be unfair – pick just one name most whispered in awe around the foyer after the gig? Ray Warleigh.
The last piece performed tonight is entitled Upwards, but all of the movements have that mood of reaching out and up, of growing organically. There are samples from the CD HERE
From its very first performance in Basingstoke in 2010 – which we reviewed – the music has started to make its way in the world. It’s been a fascinating journey so far. Tonight’s performance showed its maturation in in the hands of its first, ideal, increasingly eloquent interpreters.
But as for the future, this music is of such heft and value, it is surely destined to travel further, to develop a life of its own, to become indispensable core big band repertoire worldwide. Tonight was a very important step on that journey.
The Kenny Wheeler Big Band (18th Nov 2012)
Trumpets: Nick Smart, Derek Watkins, John Barclay, Henry Lowther
Trombones: Gordon Campbell, Mark Nightingale, Barnaby Dickinson, Dave Stewart
Saxophones: Evan Parker, Stan Sulzmann, Ray Warleigh, Duncan Lamont, Julian Arguelles
Piano: Gwilym Simcock
Guitar: John Parricelli
Bass: Chris Laurence
Drums: Martin France
Vocals: Norma Winstone
Soloist: Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn)
Conductor: Pete Churchill
People I spoke to after this gig were stunned by the sound, by the beauty of the music, by the unity of the band. I was particularly moved when Kenny Wheeler first played: that familiar sound, as rich and strong as ever.
It's hard to express the debt owed to this man by our community. How can we thank him for his prolific contribution?