KENNY WHEELER — Gnu High

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KENNY WHEELER - Gnu High cover
3.46 | 7 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1976

Filed under Post Bop
By KENNY WHEELER

Tracklist

A Heyoke 21:47
B1 'Smatter 5:56
B2 Gnu Suite 12:47

Total Time: 40:46

Line-up/Musicians

Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Flugelhorn – Kenny Wheeler
Piano – Keith Jarrett

About this release

ECM Records – ECM 1069 (Germany)

Recorded June 1975, Generation Studios, New York City

Thanks to snobb, js for the updates

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KENNY WHEELER GNU HIGH reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

snobb
Not very often one can hear Keith Jarrett/Dave Holland/Jack DeJohnette trio playing as support band. So this Canadian (UK-based) reeds player Kenny Wheeler's album is quite unique even because of this fact. And it looks like "Gnu High" is the last album containing Jarrett as side musician ever.

Wheeler's debut on ECM, this album represents very special time for modern jazz - influential German ECM label is in transition finding their upcoming "new ECM sound" later becoming known as "European jazz" or "chamber jazz". If former part of decade ECM built their reputation as audiophile company releasing avant-garde jazz and post bop of airy/ambient atmosphere with emotionally cold crisp sound, that is late seventies when artists like Keith Jarrett or Jan Garbarek started recording for ECM more amorphous,grooveless music quite liquid and sterile,with obvious influence of European music halls sound.

"Gnu High", even packed with "African" cover art (probably recalling Garbarek's fantastic adventurous ECM debut "African Pepperbird"),doesn't contain African rhythms or freer experimentation. In fact three long tracks are good example of label's transition sound when even if still post bop rooted, music is slower,more abstract and sterile. Wheeler himself plays exclusively flugelhorn, varying from controlled lyrical to abstractly cool. Jarrett/Holland/DeJohnette trio are competent but sounds as if they were asked to demonstrate their maximal available tenderness,delicacy and correctness.

Final result is quite similar to many better "classical" ECM albums of that time - music sound truly professional but soulless,sterile and quite faceless. From other hand, many fans like it because of that. Searchers of more adventurous sound can check Dave Holland ECM albums from the same time, without being too free they offer much more life,groove and fun.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
Well, in the long line of standard run-of-the-mill Jarrett/DeJohnette/Holland series of album, there is one that sticks out a bit, mainly due to the irruption of Canadian trumpetist Kenny Wheeler. So much so, that this album is more considered a Wheeler album, than a Jarrett one. Not that Gnu High is drastically different album affair than the afore-mentioned Jarrett string, but indeed the added trumpet does include a tremendous added ingredient to the soup’s recipe, not just spicing it up sonically, but also adding somewhat in the songwriting department as well. Not that we’re out of the usual ECM-type of album, though: an instantly-recognisable Jarrett-led trio with an added often-entertaining trumpet.

Just three tracks (all Wheeler-penned) on the album, with the sidelong Heyoke track clocking at almost 22-mins being all over the spectrum as long as it remains calm and slow-paced (well outside a second-half piano passage). The short (all things relative with its 6-mins) Smatter opens the flipside in a fairly energetic but atypical manner, but settles own a bit towards its end. As for the closing Gnu piece (the highlight of the album, IMHO), it is well in the same sonic spectrum as the other two pieces, but seems to venture out further than the fenced pastures, despite a second DeJohnette drum solo, and tail-end of the Gnu beast sounds more interesting.

Not much African elements, despite the rather-misleading track names. If you are familiar with Jarrett works and the usual Wheeler works, you’ll find that despite the latter composing all the tracks, we’re somewhat closer to the former’s universe, even if the Gnu Suite somehow resets the balance closer to even. Well if this album was in Jarrett product by name, it probably would sit in my top 5 J/D/H, not too far away from the famed Köln Concert release.

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  • Fant0mas
  • PaulBrouns
  • KK58
  • wthii
  • richby

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