Kenny Wheeler, plus Ornette and Pat

One of the things I like about downloadable music is that it really enables impulse buying. The other day I was perusing the Grammy nominations in the jazz category, and noticed a nominated album that I hadn’t heard of. It is What Now? by Kenny Wheeler, with Chris Potter, John Taylor and Dave Holland. I though it looked interesting, and 5 minutes and a trip to the iTunes store later, I was listening to it.

Now comes the other side of easy access. I don’t mind paying $10 (or less sometimes) for 128k AAC files of music I want to explore. Generally if it is something I know I want, I’ll order the CD instead of download it. Of course once the CD gets here I usually read the notes once, rip it (at a much higher bitrate), and put the CD in a folder with the other hundreds of CDs whose music now usually gets played on my computer or iPod. Anyway, to the music…

What Now? cover

I really like this music. There is no drummer, yet it still swings. Wheeler and Potter compliment each other well. Chris plays some stuff that is very souful and moving. Lately, my listening has been Kenny Wheeler deficient, and this album is encouraging me to remedy that situation.

Another recent iTunes pick up is the 20th Anniversary re-issue of Song X by Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman.

Song X cover

To my ears, the beauty of Ornette is the melodies he plays throughout everything he does. His presence brings out the great melodic skill of Metheny as well. Like most free-ish outings, there are a few things that don’t work as well as the rest of the album, but the good stuff is so good. The new tracks are enough to justify checking this out, even if you have the original issue.

This album was first released in 1985. I was 15 and listening to a lot of Spryo Gyra and Maynard Ferguson. I had just bought a Jazz at the Philharmonic that had J.J. Johnson on it, and my friend Clint had just turned me on to Miles Davis Four and More. My musical journey had just begun, and I had no idea what was in store for me. I am sure that the first I ever heard about Ornette was from the press around the original release of this album. Shortly thereafter I heard “Lonely Woman” and that melody has been lodged in my brain ever since.

The melodies of Ornette…