Reuben Fowler Big Band- ‘Everybody’s Song: Celebrating the work of Kenny Wheeler’ feat. Evan Parker

“When Nick Smart approached me to put on a concert celebrating Kenny Wheeler it seemed like such a fantastic opportunity to play some of the lesser-known scores of Kenny’s that no-one has really ever heard. Wheeler is a notoriously prolific writer, and there are still compositions and arrangements of his that even he has yet to hear performed. With Nick’s help, we trawled through the Wheeler archives at the Royal Academy of Music and selected some older and newer arrangements that have had far too little airtime, with one exception: ‘Sea Lady.’ In February 2014, I reformed my Big Band (with some special guests) to do a one off gig at The Forge, Camden. This gig was ‘Everybody’s Song: Celebrating the work of Kenny Wheeler.’ 

Knowing we were going to be performing the iconic Wheeler composition ‘Sea Lady’ from ‘Music for Large and Small Ensembles’, I immediately approached  Evan Parker to be part of the project. Not only was Evan keen to be a part of the event, he also sat in the saxophone section playing parts: something Parker is only known to do in Kenny Wheeler’s Big Band. Percy Pursglove, Martin Shaw and Robbie Robson all took on the role of Kenny, while Brigitte Beraha took Norma Winstone’s part.

The concert was received to critical acclaim, and it’s to be hoped we’ll be doing another concert of this kind in the future featuring these and other rare Wheeler scores.”

-Reuben Fowler

You can read the London Jazz review of the evening here

Set List:

The Jigsaw
Sea Lady
The 2005 Suite

Reuben Fowler Big Band

Reuben Fowler- Conductor
Evan Parker- Saxophones
Brigitte Beraha- Vocals
Trumpets: Tom Walsh, Louis Dowdeswell, Percy Pursglove, Martin Shaw, Robbie Robson
Saxophones:  Sam Mayne, James Gardiner Bateman, Joe Wright, George Crowley, Rob Cope
Trombones: Trevor Mires, Robbie Harvey, Kieran McLeod, Callum Au
Rhythm: Alex Munk (gtr), Matt Robinson (pno), Tom McCredie (bs), Dave Hamblett (dr)


Reuben Fowler Big Band plus Blue-Eyed Hawk
(The Forge, Camden Town. February 26th 2014. Review by Oliver Weindling). 

“Reuben Fowler is a monster” was Evan Parker’s kindly, forthright appraisal of Reuben Fowler after last Wednesday’s concert. The young trumpeter/composer was leading his big band at a concert in celebration of Fowler’s Kenny Wheeler Prize in a performance of Wheeler’s Long Suite from 2005, with the eminent saxophonist as guest. The suite was written for Kenny’s 75th birthday tour, and rarely performed – an exception was the performance by the London Jazz Orchestra in 2010.

Reuben Fowler had taken advantage of the Wheeler archive deposited at the Royal Academy of Music, to ferret out this and some of his own favourite scores for his Big Band. Immediately on starting one was enveloped by the warmth of the writing. Following The Jigsaw, we were lucky to have Evan Parker reprising his soprano solo on Sea Lady from the classic Music for Large And Small Ensembles. It’s rare to tempt out Parker to read parts, but of course the relationship between Wheeler and Parker has been special and Parker had no trouble in tingling our spines.

Part of the joy of any Wheeler score is its openness in allowing all the band members to express themselves. So we had some great soloing from most of the musicians. There were so many individual moments, the full band line-up is really necessary for full appreciation! But, specifically Robbie Robson, Martin Shaw and Percy Pursglove shared the Kenny Wheeler trumpet/flugelhorn role and managed to be themselves while showing respect to the master; James Gardiner-Bateman took the important part originally conceived for Lee Konitz.

Falling in between Music for Large and Small Ensembles (ECM, 1990) and The Long Waiting (Camjazz,  2012), Long Suite increasingly stands out as the one which got away.  Let’s hope that the band records this music soon and makes it known to a wider audience.


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