KEN WILEY, Cuerno Exotica
September 5, 2018 | Jonathan Widran
The title of Ken Wiley’s melodically and rhythmically inviting new album translates to “Exotic Horn” – but his lead voice is not an instrument, like trumpet, flugelhorn or saxophone, that we normally associate with the kind of sultry, soulful and romantic Latin jazz he’s playing here with esteemed cohorts like Mark Leggett (acoustic guitar) and Dan Higgins (flute and sax).
The image of a French Horn usually brings to mind a marching band or brass section of a large orchestra – yet Wiley uses its unique, mellow and haunting sound to create a lower end contrast to Higgins’ spirited flute whimsy and Leggett’s playful solos.
In addition to his French Horn, Wiley also occasionally showcases his tuneful piano skills on a set featuring his originals and bright, Latinized takes on Ravel's "Bolero" (featuring pianist Dave Loeb) and McCoy Tyner’s dark, intense modal jam “Sama Layuca” – the latter of which pairs Loeb's deep, powerful piano chordings with Higgins’ muscular tenor. The foundation of everything here is the lively percussion, provided by two of L.A.’s true masters, Kevin Ricard and Luis Conte.