Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Ben Wendel What We Bring

Ben Wendel
What We Bring
Motema Music

A member of the band Kneebody, the new recording by saxophonist-composer Ben Wendel is an exhilarating recording with his acoustic quartet of Gerald Clayton on piano, Joe Sanders on bass and Henry Cole on drums. About the music on this he commented, "'What We Bring' refers to the experience, inspiration and shared wisdom that musicians collect and absorb throughout their lives, and how that is expressed through their art. All of the pieces on this album are dedicated to masters from the past, peers from the present and musicians of the future. …"

The opening "Amian," has moments of energetic playing along with quiet lyricism with the rhythm providing a swirling pulse. Clayton consistently adds his own inspired solo on "Fall," followed by Wendel's probing against the bass-drums support. There is a playfulness exhibited by Wendel's alto and Clayton's piano on "Spring" that evolves into heated playing marked by Wendel's slight vibrato on the alto sax as the rhythm section provides a swirling backdrop. Drummer Cole's behind the beat snare generates a rhythmic tension that underpins the stately, reflective tone of Wendel's tenor on "Doubt."

The lyrical "Song Song," has an exemplary solo from Clayton, terrific playing from Sanders and Cole before the leader's own sonorous playing as the performance swings strongly to a muted close, on an outstanding performance on a consistently engaging, stimulating recording. The swirling energy of "Soli" is followed by the calm of "Austin." The closing "Solar," is not the Miles Davis number. Wendel's composition is given a spirited performance with Cole driving the groove and spotlighted near the end.

This is a terrific recording with Wendel's compositions a springboard for robust, focused playing by a top-notch band.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here Ben and this group perform "Song Song."

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