Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and the London Vocal Project - London Jazz Festival 2011

St James’ Piccadilly, London. Wednesday 16th November 2011.

It would be a sour soul who wasn’t just a little moved by the joyous atmosphere inside the St James’ Church, Piccadilly last night for an evening with Kenny Wheeler and the London Vocal Project. To get us in the mood, we were treated to the world premiere of ‘Horizons’, a piece written specially for a young singer, Kwabena Adjepong, by pianist Gwilym Simcock. I don't mind a bit of sentimentality at all, but there was a tad too much for me here (or I wasn't in the mood). The deep richness of Adjepong’s voice does however, promise much for the future.

There was an appropriately reverent reception when the great Kenny Wheeler approached the stage for this rare performance of the ‘Mirrors Suite’, a setting of poems by Stevie Smith, Lewis Carroll and W. B. Yeats for band and choir. It was really magic stuff. To hear classic Wheeler harmonies performed by the great players Nikki Iles on piano, Mark Lockheart on sax, Norma Winstone on vocals, Steve Watts and James Maddren on bass and drums, along with the 20-piece London Vocal Project led by Pete Churchill was an absolute treat.

The suite contains all the best of the Wheeler compositional devices, with rich modal harmonies sweeping their way through waves of sequences over silky swing beats. Wheeler delivered a number of his classic searching solos, firing up into the high registers of the flugal horn in that way only he does. Iles was rhythmically really on it tonight, delivering some really exciting punchy lines. Lockheart sounded the best I’ve heard him, especially when on soprano sax, his tone being quite delicious, and his lines strong and coherent, with every note counting.

I hope this wonderful piece gets recorded at some point, preferably with this same band and choir. It would be a sin if it wasn't.


artsandmoresw4 said...

Good to see a review of this - there aren't many in the press. As only an occasional jazz gig goer I found this to be a wonderful evening, with Ken Wheeler's playing and sound just superb, and other great performances from the band and vocal project. Fantastic enthusiasm from Pete Churchill. Very special.

Ade said...

Cheers ArtsandMoreW4. It was indeed a top night! Ade

Brendan Dowse said...

Album out on 25th February on Edition records.