Gnu High: (1974-1984)

Song for Someone: The Musical Life of Kenny Wheeler - Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw [+-]
Louisiana State University
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Brian Shaw is Associate Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies at Louisiana State University. He also serves as Principal Trumpet of the Baton Rouge Symphony, Co-Principal Trumpet of the Dallas Wind Symphony, and enjoys an international performing career on modern and Baroque trumpets. As a jazz musician and scholar, Shaw has served as a consultant to both the Kenny Wheeler Archive and Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Louis Armstrong Archive at Queens College. In recognition of his scholarship, Shaw was honored with one of only six Rainmaker awards given to LSU faculty in 2013. His book, Kenny Wheeler: Solo Transcriptions, is published by Universal Edition. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife Paula, their son Thomas, and their house full of rescued pets.
Nick Smart [+-]
Royal Academy of Music
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Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music, Nick Smart is an internationally renowned jazz educator, trumpeter and musical director who has given guest masterclasses and performances around the world. In 2013 he was the winner of the prestigious UK Parliamentary Award for Jazz Education. Throughout the UK he is recognised as one of the leading musicians on the London jazz scene, where as well as being in regular demand as a sideman to players of all generations, he continues to record and tour with his own projects. In 2005 Nick released his debut album “Remembering Nick Drake” to critical acclaim. The album featured Smart’s arrangements of Nick Drake’s music played by an all star line-up including John Parricelli, Paul Clarvis, Christine Tobin and Stan Sulzmann amongst others. It was described by Straight No Chaser magazine as “…a future classic because it really captures all that is best about British jazz….” and by John Fordham in Jazz UK as “…fascinating music devoted to a fascinating inspiration.” In December 2008 Nick released his highly praised trio album “Remembering Louis Armstrong” featuring Hans Koller and Paul Clarvis. His latest band, Nick Smart’s Trogon, merges contemporary jazz sounds with Afro Cuban concepts and released the album "Tower Casa" on Babel Records in November 2013, described in the Guardian's 4 star review as "an undemonstratively idiosyncratic fusion, and Smart plays with brightness, tight timing and subtle intonation throughout." His versatility as a trumpet player has allowed him to perform alongside many international jazz stars including George Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, John Hollenbeck, the New York Voices, Mike Gibbs and Dave Douglas, as well as most of the leading names on the UK jazz scene. Amongst other things Nick was a member of the late Kenny Wheeler’s Big Band, with whom he had a long association and is widely recognised as an expert in Wheeler's music. He plays in a new quartet from saxophone star Stan Sulzmann and has recorded on the new album of vocalist Christine Tobin in her interpretations of Leonard Cohen songs. As an acclaimed musical director of large ensembles, Nick conducts the Stan Sulzmann Big Band (Neon Orchestra) and the Troyka large ensemble, “Troykestra”. He also performs internationally as the regular soloist with the James Taylor Quartet.


Even by his standards, this was a prolific time for Kenny. Now considered a modern classic, Kenny’s ECM debut Gnu High was far from an easy ride for the trumpeter. In the recording sessions for this, pianist Keith Jarrett’s chilly reception did not set Kenny’s nervous personality at ease. Nevertheless, the album established Wheeler’s relationship with the German record label, which would last to his final recording and cement his reputation as a pioneer of an increasingly identifiable European jazz sound. Soon thereafter, John Taylor formed the trio, Azimuth with Kenny and Norma Winstone. His work with this group complemented his own albums and became another significant part of his catalogue. Kenny’s session work was increasingly replaced with jazz opportunities. He was invited to join the new Dave Holland Quintet at around the same time that Holland took over as director of the jazz program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. Dave invited Kenny onto the faculty, and this position introduced many young international musicians to Kenny and his music.

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Shaw, Brian; Smart, Nick. Gnu High: (1974-1984). Song for Someone: The Musical Life of Kenny Wheeler. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Mar 2022. ISBN 9781781792193. Date accessed: 03 Apr 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.25559. Mar 2022

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