Dulcinea; Or, “Isn’t It Quixotic?”

Kenny Wheeler and The John Dankworth Orchestra
Windmill Tilter
Fontana : 1968

KW, fluegelhorn, arrangement; Tony Coe, clarinet, tenor sax; John McLaughlin, guitar; Dave Holland, bass; John Spooner, drums.
Orchestra: Hank Shaw, Les Condon, Derek Watkins, Henry Lowther, trumpet; John Dankworth, alto sax; Tony Roberts, bass clarinet, tenor sax; Ray Swinfield, flute, alto sax, baritone sax; Tony Coe, clarinet, tenor sax; Michael Gibbs, Chris Pyne, trombone; Alf Reece, Dick Hart, tuba; Alan Branscombe, Bobby Cornford, piano; Tristan Fry, conga, vibraphone.

Chilly Jay Chill: First heard this album on the radio. Evan Parker was being interviewed (on WKCR, I think) about his hero, Kenny Wheeler.

Drew LeDrew: Kenny Wheeler, his hero? Surprising for someone as avant and singular as Parker to pick someone who has often sounded conservative to my ears.

CJC: Well, as he played selections from Wheeler’s oeuvre — the mid-70s group with Braxton, to more straight ahead work — it started to make sense. The sheer range of the guy’s playing was impressive. But Windmill Tilter was the one that won me over. It’s not that it’s so avant on the surface, but rather the compositional care, the meshing of the small band feel with full orchestra. The unusual textures.

DLD: William Gass once said about the great Eastern European writer Danilo Kis that it was the “local quality of the prose” that counted in his work. The word choice, the syntax, the turn of phrase. And that’s the case here.

CJC: Speaking of “local quality,” what was in the water in London at the time? A few years after this, Wheeler pops up in John Surman’s Tales of the Algonquin, another monumental work rich with historical and literary references.

DLD: Post-Coltrane, maybe the UK isn’t suffering the anxiety of influence to quite the same extent, and musicians there are free to make the grand statement, using home-grown locutions? Here the syntax comes through in the unusual choices of voices, the layers of orchestration, the slippery rolling rhythms, the way the solos play against the ensemble. Despite its 1968 provenance, it has something of a 70s feel about it. There’s a brightness to the colors of the tracks. Yellows, greens, oranges, maybe some browns. Entirely pleasant.

CJC: Pleasant and bright — not adjectives usually used to describe adventurous jazz. Insisting on lightness over the heavosity and do-or-die spiritualism of most free jazz, this music makes a virtue of its nimbleness. Hard to do that without slipping into vapidity or soppiness, of course.

DLD: It’s not a stretch to say that Wheeler and Co. capture the overall lightness of the Quixote story. Especially the first part of the novel – the loping adventures, the sly sense of satire, etc.

CJC: It does miss the self-reflexive part of the second half of the novel – the truly savage humor and dark undercurrents – but it can’t do everything. What’s here is more than enough.

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And: Many, many thanks for all of the get well wishes last week. Much appreciated. Your kind words made us feel better than anything else we tried (even the vinegar).

Category Kenny Wheeler

10 Responses to Dulcinea; Or, “Isn’t It Quixotic?”

  1. Glad you guys are back and feeling better. “Prelude” was just what I needed on this snowy morning – love the brief vibes solo there.

  2. Who is the sax solo near the end of Sancho? Is that Dankworth himself?

  3. good one. yeah Kenny Wheeler is a monster. even tho he’ll play nice if hired to do so. another unsung hero of the trumpet. amongst many. he should have grown an afro , shot up some dope, and got some giant square sunglasses. then he’d be famous!

    i can’t help myself.

  4. worthy of ”Ellingtonian

  5. Does anyone know which label is reissuing this fine, fine piece? Dusty Groove says it’s coming out on CD in early May.

  6. sirs: my day has been made again. you have been making me grow for the last few months now. cheers.

  7. Ah, Kenny Wheeler, solution to all of life’s problems. I’m chuffed that Evan Parker feels the same way… and if the rumours of reissue are true, I can’t wait to pick up Windmill Tilter on CD – finally!

  8. so many great trumpeters: E. Rava, M. Schoof, R. Malfatti, Wheeler, etc…

    i guess this is a good time to mention the Malfatti-Wittwer trumpet/guitar LP ‘thrumblin” on fmp -1976. wacky technical prowess. . i notice that mutant-sounds is not linked in your links to other sites. they plumb the deepest depths of the very very avant garde landscape. um… very very very weird stuff, but hopelessly obscure freejazz mixed in there too. stuff you never thought you would find.

  9. SUMMER RE-UP: Dulcinea; Or, “Isn’t It Quixotic?”

  10. Music News, IOmusic.net » SUMMER RE-UP: Dulcinea; Or, “Isn’t It Quixotic?”