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A Review of Ben Wendel's 'The Seasons'

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Monday November 05, 2018

From Musically Speaking

Aaron Parks, Quartette Oblique, and Ben Wendel Dazzle with New Releases
By: Mel Minter

Ben Wendel The Seasons (Motéma Records) A review
The Seasons began as a 12-part suite for jazz duos, inspired by 12 piano pieces that Tchaikovsky composed and released month by month in 1876. Saxophonist/bassoonist Ben Wendel composed an original composition for each month, and pairing himself up with a different partner for each, he posted videos of the performances on YouTube month by month. Although the music was not recorded or released as an album, it still garnered a GRAMMY nomination. The album expands on those 12 compositions, and Wendel has pulled together four of his erstwhile duo partners—Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Aaron Parks (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Eric Harland (drums)—in a highly sympathetic and virtuosic quintet that sets this music ablaze. The 12 pieces, each a compressed suite in itself, reflects a musical personality that is as adventurous and imaginative as it is lyrical and precise. From the premonitions of March to the brooding storms of August to the achingly beautiful night skies of December, which host a supernova explosion before fluttering into silence, each piece seduces the listener into Wendel’s space, often riding on repeating rhythmic/melodic cells that exert a magnetic pull. By turns funky, percussive, dreamy, breezy, with Latin and gospel touches along the way, The Seasons invites repeated explorations.

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