Andrew Rathbun explains why he’s paying tribute to Kenny Wheeler in New York (Ottowa Citizen)

Excerpt: What is your personal connection to Kenny and his music?

AR: Like many musicians, I met Kenny at the Banff Centre for the Arts. He was one of the main reasons I wanted to go there. Someone had given me a copy of Gnu High, and it was such a revelation. The compositions, the sound that Ken achieves, the fact that his improvisational language is totally his own, had a major impact on me. So going to Banff and hearing that sound in person, was totally incredible. Standing beside him and playing a unison line made you feel like your sound was engulfed by his. People have said that when he solos with a large ensemble, it sounds like the entire big band is coming out of his horn.

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Kenny Wheeler Memorial Concert: Andrew Rathbun Speaks

Excerpt: As a Canadian-born jazz musician, can you speak a bit about how Kenny Wheeler was regarded on the Canadian jazz scene?

AR: He was a titan. Everyone was super aware of him and really revered and respected him. He’d come to Toronto every year and do a week at one of the clubs like the Montreal Bistro with Toronto guys like Don Thompson, and he knew those guys really well from Banff [Jazz Workshop].

I think that Banff is the biggest connection that people have to Ken. Through Banff he’d just give his music away, and people would take his tunes and play them at sessions. People were playing his music a lot and it became a word of mouth thing because he was the most self-effacing, humble guy; he was humble almost to a fault. He never did anything to promote himself, so whatever fell into his lap was what happened.

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