Wednesday, April 14, 2010
ROW: Wheeler/ Konitz/ Holland/ Frisell - Angel Song (ECM)
The surnames of four principals generously adorn the album spine, but this sublime set identifies easily as a Kenny Wheeler session. Nine compositions of the trumpeter’s devising constitute a program. All exemplify the caliber of creatively-conceived balladry that’s long been his operating standard. Quiet, conciliatory counterpoint and a floating conception of harmony are common denominators between the pieces, all which hang together in spacious, but cohesive congruity. Lee Konitz is a kindred spirit with Wheeler as a melodic improviser nonpareil. The altoist pockets his customary improvisatory speed and intricacy for a decorous delivery ripe with sentiment and emotion, sketching in textured charcoals rather than sharp graphite. Guitarist Bill Frisell jibes equally well with Wheeler’s pastoral melodic forms, a cleanly ringing amplification on his strings magnifying the dream-like demeanor of the set. Bassist Dave Holland is a free-ranging anchor, his pliable, unassuming bass patterns padding over any rhythmic and harmonic lacunae. As a paragon of the ECM aesthetic there are few sessions that surpass this one. Many of the quartet’s musical constructions flirt with edges of excessive sentimentality without crossing them. That kind of quietly daredevil tightrope walk is Wheeler’s specialty.