Kenny Wheeler

A Long Time Ago

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Subtitled "Music for Brass Ensemble and Soloists," and produced - oddly enough - by avant-garde saxophonist Evan Parker, this recording features compositions by Kenny Wheeler for four trombones, four trumpets, plus piano and guitar, with Wheeler on flugelhorn. Those attracted to the leader's somewhat staid approach should appreciate the intricate harmonies, lush brass sound, and pleasant solos. Reminiscent of some of J.J. Johnson's arrangements for brass ensemble decades ago, Wheeler's tunes tend to stick to slower tempos and rich, if not exciting blends. A serious soloist, his own lovely improvisations focus on carefully chosen notes, but sometimes drift perilously. The highlight is the opening "The Long Time Ago Suite," which, at more than 31 minutes, takes up nearly half the album. Fans of Wheeler's early adventurous years will be disappointed, but those who are accustomed to - and enjoy - his more recent conservative style should find this rewarding.

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