Sep 16 2016
Crisp melodies and hyperactive tempos are positive markers of the recording career of saxophonist Ben Wendel, both in his solo projects and with Kneebody. And he’s achieved a proficiency with the methodology of getting one to bounce off the other, a sort of kinetic interaction where the force of their collisions don’t so much as enhance their individual qualities as simply add dynamic sparks to an already electric atmosphere. With his newest release, proficiency has proven to evolve into technical expertise, and all of those tiny collisions are effected at such a rate of speed and with seeming effortlessness that the music of What We Bring exists in a perpetual state of motion blur, where frenetic tempos yield long, seemingly motionless melodic states, a sort of illusory tranquility that allows Wendel’s quartet to explore them at a leisurely pace… even as the rhythm section continues to slam down on the gas pedal.
It’s why the melody of “Amian” can pour out slowly even though bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Henry Cole are spurring the song on relentlessly, and it’s why the flurries of pianist Gerald Clayton don’t clash with the nice and casual expressions of melody on “Fall,” and it’s why the darting motion of “Spring” still radiates a hint of serenity on a song that can’t sit still. And when they do slow the pace down, as on “Doubt,” it brings into sharp relief just how savvy this music is for its melodic dexterity under extreme conditions.
But while there’s plenty here to appreciate from a conceptual standpoint, a track like “Song Song” is the immediate reminder that what this album’s heart bleeds is tuneful music to the point of being irrevocably catchy, and related in a conversant tone that is as riveting for the shaping of the words as their actual meaning.
Your album personnel: Ben Wendel (tenor sax, bassoon), Gerald Clayton (piano), Joe Sanders (bass), Henry Cole (drums) and guest: Nate Wood (percussion).
Released on Motema Music.
Listen to another album track at the label’s Soundcloud page.
Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.