I hate the phrase or label "jazz critic." I consider myself a "jazz advocate." I originally fell in love with the music of Ben Wendel when I heard a recording from a couple of years ago on a different label. Ben Wendel has recently release Frame on the Sunnyside label and the musical love affair has only deepened with time. It sounds a tad cliche but Frame would easily make the mythical top ten desert island list of discs you might be limited to if one found themselves having to whittle down their collection to their very favorites. Wendel is incredibly busy with the new record but was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
A link to my review of Frame.
Tell us about Frame, the inspiration and perhaps inspiration or any conceptual ideas that went into this stellar release.
B.W. "Most of the tunes were written about the time I was moving from Los Angeles to New York. There were alot of emotions at this time. I was excitied, anxious, introspective and of course sad about leaving behind family in Los Angeles. "Leaving" was written at this time. Conceptually this is how the release developed and of course I wanted to stay working with a larger ensemble which certainly played a significant role with the New York band featured on this release."
The cover art is amazing, there is an incredibly cool contemporary vibe and I am wondering if this is in someway specificily tied in with the feel of the recording?
B.W. - "Yes, I really wanted to go off and try something different and a photographer friend introduced me to some new technquies with this particular shot "light painting" so while in Los Angeles on an unreleated project we found a place to shoot and began experimenting."
Having originally mistaken the bass clarinet makes this critic want to crawl under the nearest rock especially as a woodwind player myself (i'll use the excuse of reviewing a record number of disc utilizing the bass clarinet) but is this an instrument you plan to continue to use on recordings?
B.W. - "Absolutely, I love the sound and having been raised in a household by classical musicians being known as more than just a saxophone player is certainly important. A multi-instrumentalist woodwind player and composer is the natural direction I want to be heading for."
Can you clue us in on the creative process when it comes to a project?
B.W. "This is actually something I am still trying to figure out. I don't write to a theme or image. The music seems to come from a black void, a more meditative state that seems to allow for the feeling of creation and then ideas seem to flow through this process whether I am playing saxophone or at the piano etc. It's the feeling of making music, sort of the opposite of what Wayne Shorter is famously known for."
There is a rather distinctive sound to Frame. A contemporary yet old school approach to the sonic integrity. Has the more traditional jazz sound lost it's way or is it reinventing itself?
B.W. "This is an on going discussion in jazz circles today. With the advent of digital technology the Rudy Van Gelder days are somewhat pushed aside as new technology is allowing for faster and far more productivity than older techniques. Having grown up in Los Angeles I am a bit more in tune with some of the more technical aspects that go into the sonic color of the release. Hopefully I can at least continue my attention to detail within my approach to the music."
Finally...Who influences you and what was the name of the last disc you purchased?
B.W "I hate to sound cliche but I listen to everything. Anything recommended to me which includes Indie rock such as Radio Head and a tremendous amount of classical or even theatre. I am consistently looking for inspiration and how I express myself through my art."
Frame is easily one of the finest releases for 2012 and I want to express my sincere thanks to Ben Wendel for his time! Be sure and check out http://www.benwendel.com/!