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Book: Song for Someone: The Musical Life of Kenny Wheeler

Chapter: Everybody’s Song But My Own: (1959-1968)

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.25557


One of Kenny’s first concerts with Dankworth was the now legendary appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1959. He would continue to record and tour with Dankworth, soon becoming a featured soloist. Alongside this work he was becoming increasingly busy with commercial sessions and sideman work. Kenny soon made his first few trips to perform in Europe and his reputation began to grow. In the active and highly fertile period of the late 1960s, Kenny began to meet many of the new wave of young musicians who would become life-long collaborators. It was also a period where his increasing frustration with (what he perceived as) his failure to master bebop meant that he actively sought out the burgeoning free jazz scene at the Little Theatre Club, led by John Stevens and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Alongside his increased involvement in the free scene, he began to play with almost every significant ensemble in London at the time, including those led by Mike Westbrook, Graham Collier and John Surman. He formed musical friendships with bassist Dave Holland (who would later join Miles Davis), as well as his future Azimuth trio partners, pianist John Taylor and vocalist Norma Winstone. A chance encounter led to him hearing a record by the trumpeter Booker Little, which would have a profound effect on him and consolidate the formation of his musical approach. The chapter closes with the story behind his debut and now landmark album as a composer and soloist, Windmill Tilter.

Chapter Contributors

  • Brian Shaw ( - brianshaw) 'Louisiana State University'
  • Nick Smart ( - nsmart) 'Royal Academy of Music'