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Published: 2003/08/28
by Glenn Alexander

Island – Bob Brookmeyer and Kenny Wheeler Quintet

Artists House Foundation

Long-time jazz players Kenny Wheeler and Bob Brookmeyer are two musical
poets circling around their muses, incessantly searching for truth through
improvisation. Both are lyrical, hypnotic players who have been versed in
various styles of the jazz idiom for decades. Wheeler and Brookmeyer have
played with the likes of Dave Holland, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, and
Coleman Hawkins, and their experience is apparent through the depth and
poetic movement of their inspired, highly nuanced playing.

Like any person who is used to improvising, one finds this method of
producing art full of unexpected gifts and that the truths you may find are
often elusive, even when they are right in front of you. On Island,
they both show their prowess for unlocking the structure of a song and
finding within its distinct personality hidden truths.

Much of this album is reminiscent of Miles Davis's more gentle excursions,
with a strong sense of immediacy — a trademark for musicians who have that
burning, crazed desire to say something unique. This album could be
considered "post-bop" or "meditative soft jazz with an edge." It is often
soft and highly expressive, with an aura of a late '50s basement bar full of
smoke, dim lights, and mellow vibes. This is the kind of freewheeling,
demanding jazz of the '40s and '50s. It is more soft spoken, but with,
perhaps, just as much to say as the more ecstatic sub-genres of jazz. On
"Before The First Time," the band is introduced slowly though fluid, solid
playing with a tasteful solo from Jeremy Allen, the bassist. On "114," the
band cools down even more for this languid piece with a surprising lyrical
bop-ish solo from Wheeler.

All the musicians have good technique and maintain a strong sense of the
soul of the song. This is not an indulgent album. It is not eccentric nor
new. Both Wheeler and Brookmeyer are capable of exciting solo excursions
with flourishes of dissonant colors and rushes of swirling, enthused trills,
as is evidenced on "Song For Kenny", a hypnotic, energized, post-bop trip
with the most inspired soloing on the album. All the musicians shine on
this album. It is not a vehicle designed to highlight the main drivers, but
to elevate the spirit through passion and dedication, two things these
players have in spades.

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