Scott Yanow : Urban Horn Project Review
Ken Wiley is a veteran French horn player who has worked with such notables as John Patitucci, Grant Geissman, the late Charlie Rouse and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. A strong jazz improviser who has a beautiful and mellow tone, Wiley is also a notable composer and an occasional bandleader.
Urban Horn Project is comprised of a dozen Wiley originals. The music is atmospheric, quietly moody, full of hypnotic themes and filled with colorful tones and harmonies with Wiley's French horn often in the lead. Most of the selections have Wiley joined by guitarist Mike Miller, bassist Dave Carpenter, drummer Ralph Humphrey and percussionist Luis Conte. Dan Higgins is a major asset throughout, whether playing flute, piccolo, clarinet, harmonica, alto or tenor. One song adds two trumpets, tenor sax, and a trombone while two of the originals ("Viernes" and "Vendredi") are spoken word pieces dedicated to Friday in Los Angeles and narrated by either Ada Cirillo or Dessy Di Lauro.
The distinctive ensembles and the interplay between Wiley and Higgins are two good reasons to acquire Urban Horn Project. To name a few highlights, "Fresh Grass" has fine piccolo playing by Higgins, "DeFalla" is a Latin piece that could have been written by Chick Corea, "Li'l Lucy" (with has a tradeoff by French horn and alto) is a bit funky in an early 1970s Quincy Jones groove, "Mingling" contrasts flute and French horn and "Montoya" has a theme that is a bit hypnotic.
Listeners should approach Urban Horn Project without preconceptions about the French horn or jazz in general. They will find the music to be subtle, filled with attractive grooves and quietly unpredictable. The Urban Horn Project grows in interest with each listen.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists, The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76.
Scott Yanow : Jazz Horn Redux Review
Through the years, the French horn has primarily been associated with classical music in addition to being utilized to give depth to studio orchestras and occasional big bands. However since Julius Watkins and David Amram in the 1950s, it has also been a very viable if rarely utilized solo instrument in jazz.
Ken Wiley is doing his part to make the French horn more accepted in jazz. On Jazz Horn Redux, he teams up with a top-notch rhythm section (pianist Wally Minko, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Kendall Kay), and matches ideas with such guests as trumpeters Gary Grant and Chuck Findley, Bob Sheppard (tenor and soprano) and Dan Higgins (flute, alto, tenor and soprano) on various selections.
The repertoire is comprised of 11 of the best-loved and most popular songs in jazz including “Bag’s Groove,” “All Blues,” Clare Fischer’s “Morning” and “Oleo.” The music, which ranges from bebop to a CTI groove on “Little Sunflower,” is mostly taken at a calm and relaxed pace, with Wiley’s French horn giving the ensembles a mellow sound. He holds his own with the other musicians and often takes solo honors
Among the other highlights are Findley, Sheppard and Wiley’s solos on “Scrapple From the Apple,” the almost dixielandish feel to the French horn solo during “Sonnymoon For Two,” the easy-listening bossa “Corcovado” and an energetic version of “Freedom Jazz Dance.”
Jazz Horn Redux is a pleasing CD that features Ken Wiley and his musicians in excellent form.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists, The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76.
French Horn player Wiley has gigged with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and Charlie Rouse's quintet, but this extensively arranged, almost new-ageish session, (Visage) sounds like neither. Excellent production throughout.
[Visage] could be a first: a fusion album, with new age leanings, from a French horn play. A gentle blend.
Kansas City Star
An innovator with the French Horn. A composer with brilliance and warmth.
St. Joseph News Press
Musicianship on Record Called Flawless: The French horn isn't usually considered a jazz instrument. In fact, it is rarely considered at all in commercial music circles. But Ken Wiley has taken his curly-Q piece of brass in hand, championing its cause with his first album "Visage." The St. Joseph native's first attempt at an album is a success musically, whether it enjoys a comparable success at the cash register remains to be seen. Available on the Passport Record label and marketed by JEM Records, "Visage" is a kind of easy listening crossover jazz, similar to that of Tim Weisberg's style. Not to be confused with the "easy listening' radio stations that specialize in elevator and grocery store music, the easy listening jazz written and arranged by Wiley for "Visage' is good jazz, mellowed with his horn. At first listening, the guitar work of Grant Geissmann is particularly notable. Joining Wiley and Geissmann on the records are Pat Coil, piano and synthesizers, Dave Loeb, piano, John Eidsvoog, synthesizer, Jimmy Johnson, John Patitucci and Steve Anderson, bass, Ralph Humphrey and Ron Wagner, drums, Bruce Cassidy, E.V.I., Brad Dutz, percussion and Mike Miller, guitar. The four selections on side one all have a similar sound, the album's major weak point. The musicianship is flawless though and the engineering good. Side two is definitely the better, with the works a little longer and more diverse. "Fourth World" is probably the most memorable piece on the album, its sounds suggestive of another place out of time with the here and now.
Natural Elements Records
Ken Wiley, French horn player and composer, has recorded an album that combines the haunting and melodic sounds of the French horn with the hypnotic rhythms of Afro-Cuban and South American music. Wiley's first Natural Elements release, "Highbodge Park,' is a contemporary recording that showcases the natural beauty of the French horn while spanning both the New Age and Jazz genres. Highbridge Park also spotlights world renowned percussionist Luis Conte (Madonna, Pat Metheny, Strunz & Farah) and drummer Ralph Humphrey (Free Flight). Their interaction, rounded out by bassist Bob Mair and percussionist Brad Dutz, is nothing short of astounding! In short, ''Highbridge Park's sonically superior HDCD (High Definition Compact Disc) mastering and unique use of instrumentation should prove to be a landmark recording in contemporary instrumental music.
St. Joseph Daily Living
A man and his horn can be a relationship that goes on forever, and with Ken Wiley, it's a real love affair. The French horn was his choice when he was just a kid and he has remained fiercely loyal. 'When I was in sixth grade at Mark Twain, I thought I wanted to play the drums," Wiley said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "But the director, Allan Bing, said he had too many drummers and he sent a French horn over to the house that sat under the piano most of the summer.' He explained that his mother found some recordings that featured the instrument and he began to like the sound. At than Junior High, he started playing the horn, and continued through Central High School. Recently, Wiley released his first album through Passport Records featuring all original jazz compositions. Entitled "Visage,. it also spotlights a keyboard artist, two bassists and a drummer. Described as an 'atmospheric musical voyage," the listener can envision a trip down the Missouri River or soar quietly to a distance place. 'It's mood-inducing music," says Wiley, "and yet there's plenty of solid rhythm, too.
Wiley said that there is not a lot of music written for the French hom so he has always had to create his own. In the album, he has strived to showcase its natural beauty. "I didn't want to lose the very pretty qualities of the horn, which can sometimes happen when the instrument is introduced into the jazz medium."
Wiley says his album is doing very well and he is already working on a second. The album is available in St. Joseph at Liberty Sound. Coincidentally, the recording engineer for the work is Terry Jennings, who is also a St. Joseph product.
The Horn Call
Highbridge Park was a very enjoyable listening experience. Ken Wiley's music sounds like a blend of many different influences. On one hand, I hesitate to try and describe it because my description will never really be accurate. Listening to it is the best way to experience and feel it. However, to say that it has Latin, Jazz, and New Age elements to it would not be complete off-base. The mixture of sounds produced from a wide variety of percussion, electronic sounds, drums, bass, other acoustic Instruments, and Ken's horn playing is wonderful, and caused me to listen to Highbridge Park in two ways. Play it while you're doing some chore that needs doing, and the job will be less trouble. Then later, play it with no other sounds interfering, simply letting the music work on you. Each time I listen to Highbridge Park, I find a different favorite tune, and I like that. I don't find this music deeply profound, but some really good music that is very enjoyable to hear again and again. Wiley should be encouraged to continue writing and recording similar discs.
French horn player/composer Ken Wiley's "Visage" is a most attractive atmospheric musical voyage, one where the listener can envision a trip down the Missouri River, as with "River Pastoral,' or soar quietly to a distant place, as with "Caloris,' named after a crater on the planet Mercury. "It's mood educing music," says Wiley, "and yet there's plenty of solid rhythm, too.' Wiley has succeeded in making a contemporary record that showcases the natural beauty of the French horn. 1 didn't want to lose the very pretty qualities of the horn, which can sometimes happen when the instrument is introduced into the jazz medium,' he says. "Visage" also spotlights keyboardist Pat Coil, bassists John Patitucci and Jimmy Johnson and drummer Ralph Humphrey, top-drawer L.A. musicians who are currently heard with Ernie Watts, Chick Corea, Wayne Johnson and Free Flight, respectively. 'These men all made splendid contributions to this project," Wiley says. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, Wiley has impressive credits, including appearances with bassist Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and saxophonist Charlie Rouse's Quintet. Wiley also led his progressive jazz sextet at top L.A. clubs like Donte's, At My Place and Hop Singh's. "Visage is a sparkling warm, contemporary album that spans genres, and that will appeal to fans of both New Age' music, as well as those who enjoy more propulsive kinds of jazz/tusion. It should prove a welcome addition to the modem musical market.
Passport Records II
From the exuberant opening piano strains of 'Fantasy Hook" to the ecstatic closing segment of 'River Pastoral", Visage is a little gem buried in the sea of more heavily produced and promoted New Age music. Leaning a bit toward the jazz-fusion domain, there's plenty of snappy bass and up-tempo percussion and drums, offset by melodic content that creates joyful moods, tinged with melancholy or wistfulness, like a fond memory. This is feel-good music that's neither wimpy nor sappy, an enjoyable ride whose better moments catch you off guard and sweep you right along. The compositions themselves aren't terribly deep, but they are flexible enough for some surprises, and they allow the energetic musicians to express warmth and playfulness. Ken Wiley wrote and arranged all the compositions. He plays French Horn, an unusually, tonally rich and welcome diversion from the predominance of saxophone, flute, and guitar-based tunes common to New Age music. Ken also produced this album himself, lending an overall intimate feel to the music often glossed over with a high tech production. Originally released in 1989, this album is still receiving some airplay. Finding it in the stores may require perseverance.
Wiley's a French homist —that is, he plays French horn, not that he's French. Actually, Wiley is from Los Angeles and his first solo album fleshed out by some of LA.'s finest studio musicians including Jimmy Johnson, Grant Geissman, Ralph Humphrey, Dave Loeb and about tan others. Its generic new agey fusion jazz spotlighting the unique tonalities of Wiley's instrument.
New Age Voice Magazine
(Highbridge Park) was a very enjoyable listening experience. Ken Wiley's muic sounds like a blend of many different influences. On one hand, I hesistate to try and describe it because my desorption will never really be accurate. Listening to it is the best way to experience and to feel it. However, to say that is has Latin, Jazz, and New Age elements to it would not be completely off-base. The mixture of sounds produced from a wide variety of percussion, electronic sounds, drums, bass, and other acoustic instruments, and Ken's horn playing is wonderful, and cause me to listen to this CD in two ways. Play it while your doing some chore that needs doing, and the job will be less trouble. Then later play it with no other sounds interfering, simply letting the music work on you. Each time I listen to this CD, I find a different favorite tune, and I like that. I don't find this music deeply profound, but some really good music that is very enjoyable to hear again and again. Wiley should be encouraged to continue writing and recording similar discs.
French horn solos surrounded by a very busy jazz-fusion context provided by Hollywood studio musicians. Composer and arranger studio musician Wiley plays French horn beautifully but often gets forgotten amid the flashy commercial clutter. Visage is a cheerful, upbeat, mainstream novelty item. Highlights am 'Solemnis" and "Fourth World.'
Natural Elements Records, Inc.
Highbridge Park is Ken Wiley's first releases on the Natural Elements label. This album is a synergistic blend of the haunting, melodic, warm, and soaring sound of the French horn with the hypnotic rhythms of Afro-Cuban, South American and orchestral percussion. Wiley has succeeded in creating a contemporary record that showcases the natural beauty of the French hom. Highbridge Park also spotlights percussionist Luis Conte and drummer Ralph Humphrey. Thick grooves and infectious rhythms propel the hypnotic, dream-like music along.
Jazz in L.A.
Ken Wiley, Jazz and the French Horn. A combination that sets a new trend in today's progressive music scene. Wiley has created a style that is fresh, energetic and rhythmically exciting. A style that stands on it's own.