Friday, January 15, 2010

Belated birthday greetings to Kenny Wheeler

Kenny Wheeler was 80 yesterday. Most remiss of me not to mark the occasion by listening to him tear up Seven Steps to Heaven with the Tubby Hayes Big Band, one of my favourite pieces of anything ever recorded on rust-covered Sellotape. I'll have to repair the omission right now. Happy birthday, Kenny. I interviewed him once - not easy, as he's a chap who prefers to speak through music. With a couple of quotes here and there, I cobbled together a piece that made clear my love and admiration for the man and his work. Anyway, here he is in the early 1990s with Gordon Beck on piano, Stan Sulzmann on tenor, Tony Oxley on drums and a bassist I can't quite identify at the moment, playing an unrecognisably ferocious version of Bill Evans' Waltz for Debbie in 4/4 time. Oxley's at his barking best on this one, omitting to bring anything resembling a snare drum to the gig, a decision that I gather drove a massive wedge between him and his long-time collaborator, Beck. I can't mention him without reminding this blog's reader of Stan Tracey's summary of his exceptional, if idiosyncratic talent. "Jazz drummers play ten-to-ten, ten-to-ten, ten-to-ten [the phonetic representation of the ride cymbal swing pattern]. Tony's more a-round-a-bout-a-quarter-past-eleven."

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