If heaven doesn’t include being able to listen to Kenny Wheeler’s trumpet and flugelhorn I’m not sure what’s left to include. So effortlessly does he traverse high notes with musical and tumbrel ease, so skillfully does he let fly phrases with joy and sentimental meaning, so intricate are his harmonic gifts, there is certainly no progression of chords he can not deftly navigate and not make total musical sense. And it doesn’t matter if he is the leader or just a participant in a session, his artfulness always comes through in spades.
This is no truer than in the 1998 session he did with the Glauco Venier Trio. While this is Venier’s date, it’s Kenny who steals the show - but then he steals the show in any recording. Perhaps this recording should be called Angel Song II, so deftly does Wheeler fit into the introspective compositions and wield his artful axe between and betwixt the polyphonic lines Venier on piano and bassist Salvatore Maiore construct. In that recording, as here, the result is music designed for thinking and feeling, not wanton and blatant displays of vulgar technique. Wheeler even refers to how comfortable these sessions were in the liner notes, "I am quite often a guest on other people’s recordings, but rarely do I feel myself so comfortable and at home as on this recording."
Standout selections include "Com’e Triste Codroipo," where the Pezze String Quartet are added with absolute exquisite taste in this mid-tempo skip, and "Gorizia," where elements of free jazz find resplendent beauty at the hands of Venier’s magnificent chordal voicings and layerings.
While it’s Venier’s date, and all his compositions and arrangements, his ability to let each musician in turn take their due speaks highly of him as a musician who subjugates himself to the art, and not visa-versa. In that regard "Andrea" is a true gem. Playing between Klaus Gesing’s sweetly soothing soprano sax and the concluding accompaniment by the strings, Venier shows why higher, faster, louder is not a necessity for true musical statements.
As with so much of today’s great jazz, you’ll have to search to find this recording, but the effort is well worth it.