Music of this depth and beauty is rare indeed, and we will never see the likes of Kenny and Lee again.

ECM 1607 / 081 4303 (Luminessence Series – 2LP Audiophile Vinyl Edition)

Kenny Wheeler (trumpet & flugelhorn); Lee Konitz (alto saxophone); Dave Holland (double bass); Bill Frisell (electric guitar)

Recorded February 1996

At the time of its original release in February 1997 this was hailed as a jazz classic, and with this magnificently packaged 2 LP set, the first time the music has appeared on vinyl, there is no reason to dispute those initial claims.

Music like this doesn’t age over time, it is simply timeless. Bringing together four master improvisers and the impeccable writing of Kenny Wheeler there is much to enjoy, and much for the musicians to work with. Indeed, it says much about Wheeler’s compositions that are so uniquely his own that they are so malleable that they can be adapted to many different formats and always sound as if that is the setting they were destined for.

Even more poignant as Wheeler and Konitz are no longer with us, that their playing sounds so much part of the present, and as Wheeler’s compositions ‘Past Present’ and Present Past’ implies this blurring of timelines so the musicians themselves occupy that space where time stands still.

Wheeler’s compositions here give the musicians freedom to move around adopting different roles as the music dictates, and the ease with which the quartet move from delicate chamber ensemble to soloists and accompanists is quite remarkable. ‘Kind Folk’ has a wonderful segment where guitar and bass seem to detach themselves momentarily for an absorbing dialogue before Kenny too joins the conversation.

And talking of Wheeler it is marvellous to hear the rapport he builds with altoist Lee Konitz with the pair swapping phrases and following each other solos as if continuing each other’s ideas to their logical conclusion. Konitz’s flowing lines rub off on Wheeler as the trumpet and flugelhorn follow a more melodic path as opposed to taking the abstract route as is Wheeler’s wont.

The most traditional, almost bop inspired piece on the album is ‘Onmo’ that find bass and guitar taking on the role of accompanist as first alto then trumpet take their solos before combining in a duet where their lines weave around each other in a delightful duologue. Mention should also be given to Frisell’s introduction the closing ballad and Konitz’s pure alto sound that hangs deliciously in the air.

This coherent structure within the music somehow gives the impression that the musicians can take this music anywhere at a moment’s notice. Each of the musicians has a distinctive voice on their instrument, and their own improvisational methodology. To hear them working together in close proximity in such an intimate setting isa real treat and one that can be savoured and enjoyed with something new to discover with each time one sits down to listen.

Music of this depth and beauty is rare indeed, and we will never see the likes of Kenny and Lee again. Hearing them together in such a sympathetic partnership with Bill Frisell and Dave Holland is a treat that should not be missed.