For most of his career, Canadian-born, British-based Kenny Wheeler was known chiefly as a trumpeter and bandleader. His was hardly the typical jazz trajectory—how many other jazz musicians have a list of collaborators that includes John Dankworth, Anthony Braxton, Lee Konitz, Joni Mitchell, Bill Bruford, and David Sylvian?—nor was his approach to composition and improvisation in any way business as usual.
Over time, though, Wheeler became more revered as a composer than a performer. To some degree, this was because his acolytes wound up in teaching positions, but it mostly derived from his unorthodox yet specific approach to harmony. Always highly melodic, he encouraged soloists to play down harmonic abstractions in favor of a more lyric, vocalized line.