Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Kenny can still blow his own trumpet on his 80th birthday

Trumpet genius: Kenny Wheeler prepares to celebrate

Not many of us will get to take to the stage to celebrate our 80th birthdays — I’m just hoping I’ll be able to blow out the candles.

So hats off and best wishes to jazz trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, who will be celebrating his big day at the Elmwood Hall with a very special concert.

Wheeler, one of the most influential jazz trumpeters alive, has performed with greats like Johnny Dankworth and Antony Braxton, Keith Jarret and Dave Holland.

This time around he is teaming up with a hand-picked big band to perform new material especially written for the birthday tour, alongside some of his key works.

Growing up in Toronto, Wheeler began playing the cornet when he was just 12 and turned to jazz in his teens.

He moved to London in the early 1950s where he found his way into the London jazz scene, playing with Tommy Whittle, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott.

But despite sharing a stage with the really big names in his arena, Wheeler has made much of his reputation through his work with smaller jazz groups.

His is one of the most distinctive sounds in the history of the jazz trumpet, according to fans.

He’s recorded 20 albums as band leader, and although his star is forever in the ascent, he believes he’s simply taking care of business.

“I think I'm doing the same as I was 30 years ago,” he said.

“I'm still trying to find soppy romantic melodies mixed with a bit of chaos. That's what I've always done, I think. It is not really a question of moving forward.”

And when it comes to criticism, no one is as hard on Wheeler than the great man himself.

“I'm not really crazy about my solos,” he has said. “Your solo is definitely down to you, and you only have a split second to decide what the next note is going to be. When you write a composition, a tune — whatever you like to call it — you can labour over it, change things, rub things out, until you like it.

“I do like a lot of my compositions, but in the end I don't feel like I really own them. If you like, I have been lucky to tap into some source and picked them up, and I got them before anyone else did. That’s how I feel about the tunes I write. I quite like them because I don't feel responsible.

“But the solo, nobody is to blame but yourself.”

Such a harsh critic, and such a genius musician. Happy birthday Kenny.

Kenny Wheeler, Elmwood Hall, 8pm

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