Ben Wendel


GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel, born in Vancouver, Canada, raised in Los Angeles, and currently living in Brooklyn, continues to lead the way in audience engagement via social media and YouTube with his latest video series, “Standards With Friends” (featuring sessions with Mike Moreno, Jonathan Blake, Justin Brown, Larry Goldings, and others). Wendel has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer and producer, including tours with artists such as Ignacio Berroa, Tigran Hamasyan, Antonio Sanchez, Gerald Clayton, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Snoop Dogg and the artist formerly known as Prince. Wendel is also a founding member of the GRAMMY-nominated group Kneebody.

As a composer, he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, the 2008, 2011 and 2017 Chamber Music America “New Works Grant” and most recently was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award and the Concept to Realization grant by the Canada Council For The Arts. He also co-wrote the score for John Krasinski’s adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.

Wendel’s recent work includes producing and playing in jazz and many other genres, including the GRAMMY-nominated album Life Forum for pianist Gerald Clayton on Concord Records, the new Kneedelus album (Kneebody + Daedelus), released on Brainfeeder and given a rave 8.0 review from Pitchfork, appearing on Julia Holter’s new film score, and collaborating with her on a new non-jazz album he is co-creating with Daedelus (the album will feature artists such as Terrace Martin, Knower and Mark Guiliana), producing an album for Folk/Americana artist Darryl Holter (a BMI Woody Guthrie Fellowship Recipient), playing on Jimmy Chamberlin’s (drummer from Smashing Pumpkins) new instrumental album, and producing live concerts at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA from 2008-2015, with the help of Quincy Jones and his production team. He also recently worked with conductor Kent Nagano in producing a series of concerts for the Festspiel Plus in Munich, Germany.

Wendel has recorded for Sunnyside Records, Concord Records and Brainfeeder, including Simple Song (2009) and Frame (2012), a duo project with French-American pianist Dan Tepfer entitled Small Constructions (2013) and multiple Kneebody albums. Wendel’s critically acclaimed album What We Bring was released in the Fall of 2016 on Motéma Music, followed by The Seasons in the Fall of 2018.

Grammy nominated and award-winning saxophonist, bassoonist, and composer Ben Wendel has assembled an incredible lineup of musicians for his latest project including vocalist Michael Mayo, Shai Maestro and Gerald Clayton on piano and keys, bassist Joe Sanders, and Nate Wood on drums. Premiered at Winter Jazzfest 2019, Wendel calls the band High Heart ‘” a play on the phrase, “High Art, Low Art.” Wendel says:

“This project reflects my continued effort to create art that is personal and relevant in an increasingly impersonal time. The song titles refer to different challenges I’ve experienced while interfacing with a global audience. For example, the song ‘More’ refers to the dangers of technological overuse and losing perspective, while the song ‘High Heart’ refers to the human desire to connect and express through these new mediums at the risk of feeling isolated and cut off.

The digital age has created a profound paradigm shift and challenged what it means to be an artist. This changing perception of art and culture is aptly summarized in a recent study:

‘For today’s audiences, the definition of culture has democratized, nearly to the point of extinction. It’s no longer about high versus low or culture versus entertainment; it’s about relevance or irrelevance…it is up to cultural organizations to reassert culture’s purpose in an increasingly complex world, by powerfully articulating and delivering on their essential impact.’ (Kelton Global)

Ultimately, High Heart is a project of hope, and for me, a focused and personal statement in a time where it has become harder for all artists to find their way through the noise.”