Kenny Wheeler’s “Windmill Tilter”

When I was at college, about 20 years ago, it was hip to be into Kenny Wheeler and his music. I saw Mr Wheeler play on a number of occasions and I was more than delighted to jump on the bandwagon; he’s a magnificent trumpeter and flügelhornist, and many of his tunes are hauntingly beautiful!  However, I never really got into his recordings, until more recently, principally because I’ve never been fond of the recording quality of ECM Records; the label which released so many of his albums.

Back at that time, my fellow students would speak in hushed tones about some of Kenny Wheeler’s earlier, pre-ECM, records. One standout was Windmill Tilter; a project written for, and recorded by, the John Dankworth Orchestra in the late ’60s. It is a beautiful jazz tone-poem based on the story of Don Quixote. Only ever released on vinyl, it had fallen out of print by the time we were interested, a quarter of a century later, and had achieved almost mythical status. Rumours abounded of worn out cassette tapes from the original record. I didn’t get a chance to hear it, at the time.

In the past couple of weeks, I was reminded of Windmill Tilter. I checked online and was delighted to discover that it was finally reissued on CD, a few years ago. It arrived in mail yesterday and has been playing, on repeat, here in my home-office ever since. It’s such a glorious record – great writing, beautiful solos, tremendous ensemble work. I see what all the fuss was about!! If you’re not familiar with it you can, as usual, preview some of the tracks on YouTube:

Then, once you’re convinced, head over to and buy a copy of your own!!

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