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Seasonal Organic Music by Ben Wendel

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Monday August 27, 2018

From WBGO

Seasonal Organic Music by Ben Wendel, Bob James, Miho Hazama and More, in Take Five
By: Nate Chinen

Ben Wendel, “August”

A few years ago saxophonist Ben Wendel embarked on a project called “The Seasons” — a suite of original compositions for a dozen duet partners, one for each month of the year.

Partly inspired by a work of the same name by Tchaikovsky, it took shape as an online video series, and highlighted Wendel’s relationships with some of the leading musicians on the scene. It also coalesced — gradually, over the course of 2015 — into a coherent, balanced whole. (It was one of my Top 10 albums that year.) And Wendel wasn’t quite done with this body of music. In some ways he was only just beginning.

Once the full series was up, Wendel convened a handful of his collaborators — drummer Eric Harland, pianist Aaron Parks, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, bassist Matt Brewer — and formed a band. Earlier this year I saw this group at the Village Vanguard, where the music conveyed a thrilling sense of ecstatic communion. It seemed inevitable that this band would release a proper album.

Also titled The Seasons, it’s due out on Motéma on Oct. 12. Wendel has just shared two tracks from the album, including “August,” which he originally wrote with Mark Turner in mind. On the album, the piece’s rippling arpeggios are smoothly handled by Parks and Hekselman, as Wendel plays long tones, accentuating the shape of the melodic line. You hear his affinities not only with Turner but also a tenor titan like Michael Brecker, especially in the thick of his solo, which begins about three minutes in.

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