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."