Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ben Wendel Frame Sunnyside 2012


Street Date 02/28/12

Jazz musician are notorious musical nomads. Grammy nominated saxophonist/bassoonist/composer Ben Wendel has taken a career packed with collaborative efforts with artists from Gerald Clayton to Prince and releases a stunning work from an eclectic yet incredibly accessible foundation of an organic ambient quality few artists can match.

Frame is the end result of the creation of a suite from which three songs on this release originated. Having first become enthralled with Ben Wendel with his release ACT (Brooklyn Jazz Underground, 2009), the development of Wendel's talent is astonishing as Frame does not lend itself to any self imposed musical labels that most are all too familiar with.

Opening with the vibrant and harmonically driven "Chorale" there is a hypnotic use of syncopation which is the start of an incredibly organic pulse that drives not just this tune but the entire release. Gerald Clayton's appearance adds a nice musical depth of field especially with the duo arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma." Three different pianists are used on Frame which highlights Wendel's love of musical textures while never losing sight of a very natural ebb and flow that is captivating. A somewhat personal tune finds "Leaving" as a wistful take on Wendel's move from Los Angeles to Brooklyn and the anticipation of what may be on the horizon. Closing with "Julia" there is an obvious appreciation for classical music forms, a mysterious yet beautifully expansive piece bordering on cinematic in melody.

There is a methodical precision to Wendel's playing. No notes are wasted but instead linger in an open ended sonic exploratory of melody and expression seldom heard from other players today. Ben Wendel is a musical sponge, an organic byproduct of his own creative nature.

Frame is a musical snapshot of a creative moment in time for a prolific composer, unique instrumentalist and jazz visionary. Conventional labels to Wendel's music do not apply here nor should they. Ben Wendel is the epitome of the evolving artist and the future for jazz saxophone.

5 stars!

Tracks: Chorale; Clayland; Con Alma; Backbou; Jean and Renata; Blocks; Frame; Leaving; Julia.

Personnel: Ben Wendel: saxophones, bassoon & melodica; Gerald Clayton: piano ( 1,2,3); Tigran Hamasyan: piano (4,6,7); Nir Felder: guitar; Adam Benjamin: piano ( 1,4,6,7), fender rhodes (8,9); Ben Street: bass; Nate Wood: drums.