The Kenny Wessel Bruce Arnold Bios
The Kenny Wessel Bruce Arnold Bios page contain information on the careers of these two guitarists.
To see Kenny and Bruce performing together please visit our Videos page.
Kenny Wessel Bruce Arnold Bios
Kenny Wessel Bio
Kenny Wessel, a versatile, sensitive and soulful guitarist and composer, has performed in 28 countries. He toured with revolutionary jazz artist Ornette Coleman for over 12 years as a member of Prime Time, Ornette’s groundbreaking ensemble. Kenny can be heard on Coleman’s CD, Tone Dialing. Performing Ornette’s “Skies of America,” Wessel has appeared with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. A vital and personal voice on the jazz guitar, he has also worked with Donald Fagen (featured guitar soloist on Fagen’s Morph the Cat), David Liebman, John Abercrombie, Karl Berger, Joe Lovano, Judi Silvano, Debbie Harry, Laurie Anderson, Gloria Lynne, Adam Rudolph and others from the jazz, pop and world music spectrum.
Ken has a strong interest in world music, particularly with North Indian music, and he has performed with Debashish Bhattacharya, Karaikudi Mani, V.M. Bhatt, Samir Chatterjee, Steve Gorn and others. Wessel co-leads a trio with jazz tabla master Badal Roy, Their CD, Daybreak was included in JAZZIZ magazine’s Top 10 Critic’s Picks. Ken and Badal toured India and the U.S. with their composition, “Testimony,” which was commissioned by the Battery Dance Company. Wessel’s most recent CD, Unstrung, will be released September 4, 2020 on Nonotes Records. His CD, Weights & Measures received 4 stars in Downbeat magazine. As a U.S. Jazz Ambassador, Ken has toured South Asia and South America, visiting India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bengladesh and Venezuela.
A dedicated jazz educator, Wessel currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University, City College of New York, in addition to leading ensembles at the New York Jazz Workshop. He also gives clinics and workshops around the world and has taught at universities and festivals, including: Oslo Music Academy, ICSMS Festival (Istanbul, Turkey), Mahaidol University (Bangkok), Yale University, World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland), Manhattan School of Music, and many others.
Bruce Arnold Bio
Guitarist Bruce Arnold’s passionate pursuit of new ideas and applications for his beloved six-string instrument has taken him from the minimalist landscapes of Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the bustling city of Boston, where he studied and later taught at the Berklee College of Music, to the hallowed halls of Princeton University, where he taught for 30 years, retiring in 2019. Along the way, the music educator and author has managed to document his innovative ideas for guitar on a series of potent recordings that explore the notion of applying highly complex 12-tone theoretical constructs and serial methods to modern American improvised styles. As he wrote in the liner notes to his ambitious 1996 debut recording, Blue Eleven: “All of the work reflects my goal to achieve a balance between emotional expression and formal exploration.”
His performance and recording activities include work with a wide array of styles. He has played with such diverse musicians as Stuart Hamm, Peter Erskine, Joe Pass, Joe Lovano, Judi Silvano, Lennie Pickett, Randy Brecker, Stanley Clarke, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Absolute Ensemble under the baton of Kristjan Järvi.
As for his own music, Arnold continues his various applications of the classical based pitch class set theory. explains. “This is something that I got into in the early ‘90s,” he explains. “When I was living in Boston, I had been playing in straight ahead jazz groups, fusion groups, rock groups, metal groups, and then when I moved to New York City in 1988 I started doing working with this band Spooky Actions where we played music by Messiaen, Webern and Schoenberg. And since then, this has actually been my baby — this whole pitch class set method. So now when I improvise, whether it’s on a jazz standard like ‘Stella By Starlight’ or McCoy Tyner’s ‘Passion Dance’ on a Webern piece or whatever, I’m using the pitch class sets that they used in the composition. That’s really my thing.”
Arnold’s focus on pitch class set theory since 1990 came after years of drifting between various styles of guitar playing. “When I was in Boston I was like the #1 call guitar player in town. It was like, ‘Oh, you want jazz? You want country? You want free improv?’ Whatever they wanted, I’d just do it. When I got to New York my attitude was, ‘I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to do something that expresses me!’ And that’s when I started exploring this hexatonic thing that McCoy Tyner was using, this idea of using two triads. And when I started teaching at Princeton, I began to realize that Schoenberg and Webern were doing the same thing, just with different sets of notes.” That eureka moment led 1996’s Blue Eleven, where he applied 12-tone constructs to a series of solo and trio “Variations.” After forming Spooky Actions in 1998 with saxophonist John Gunther, Arnold dove headlong into that heady territory on 2006’s Retrospective, which was devoted to the music of Webern, Schoenberg and Messiaen.
Kenny Wessel Bruce Arnold Bios