Ben Wendel


In 2015, Grammy nominated and award-winning saxophonist, bassoonist, composer Ben Wendel released a music-video art project entitled The Seasons – inspired by a set of twelve piano pieces written and release each month by Tchaikovsky in 1876. Wendel’s modern take on the idea was to compose and release twelve original jazz chamber duets in video format on YouTube with modern luminaries Joshua Redman, Luciana Souza, Eric Harland, Julian Lage, and Ambrose Akinmusire, among others. As the videos garnered acclaim among social networks, the project became an unexpected word of mouth success and was featured prominently in The New York Times (Best of 2015), NPR’s All Things Considered, and The CBC.

In 2016, After viewing an expressionist painting by Lee Krasner at The Whitney Museum entitled “The Seasons,” Wendel decided to expand upon the original duets project by reimagining the arrangements for a five-piece ensemble comprised of musicians and dear friends from The Seasons – Aaron Parks (piano), Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Matt Brewer (bass) and Eric Harland (drums).

The Seasons band will be launching a string of tour dates with Wendel’s debut as a leader at the legendary Village Vanguard (2/27-3/4), followed by the recording session for The Seasons album (to be released in the Fall of 2018), and tour dates in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Cambridge, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago, Winter Park and Tallahassee. “The uniqueness of this tour, and upcoming recording, is that this music was never played live or released as a traditional album. So this is the premiere of an exciting new chapter in the Seasons project!”, said Wendel.

In 2017, the Seasons project received a 2017 Canadian Arts Council Grant.

More on Ben Wendel: GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel was born in Vancouver, Canada and raised in Los Angeles. Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, he has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer and producer. Highlights include multiple domestic and international 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 a founding member of the GRAMMY-nominated group Kneebody, currently signed with Concord Records and Brainfeeder Music.

As a composer, he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, the 2008 and 2011 Chamber Music America “New Works Grant” and most recently was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award 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 is a former Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at USC and a current Adjunct at the New School in NYC. Educational outreach has been a constant in his career with over 250 masterclasses at various colleges, universities, high schools, and previous work with the LA Philharmonic Artist Program.

Wendel has recorded for Sunnyside Records, Concord Records and Brainfeeder, with two solo albums under his belt, Simple Song (2009) and Frame (2012), a duo project with French-American pianist Dan Tepfer entitled Small Constructions (2013) and multiple Kneebody albums. His music video project, The Seasons, inspired by Tchaikovsky’s works of the same name, was released throughout 2015. Wendel’s critically acclaimed third solo album What We Bring was released in the Fall of 2016 on Motema Music. The Seasons recording will be released in the Fall of 2018!

“’The Seasons,’ a vividly imagined collection of duets by the saxophonist and bassoonist Ben Wendel, was one of the standout jazz records of 2015. But it was never released in album form, and took the entire year to hear in full . . . For the project, Mr. Wendel cast a wide net, creating what amounted to his own cross-sectional portrait of the modern jazz mainstream.” – Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“Those who wish to be called creative musicians should actually create music, and hardly no one has done that better recently than Ben Wendel . . .” – Gary Fukushima, LAWeekly

“Tchaikovsky unveiled monthly samples of his piano suite ‘The Seasons’ throughout 1876; in 2015, this nimble saxophonist released his own ‘Seasons’ project, informed by the Russian masterwork, and presented as monthly online videos.” – The New Yorker

“Almost 140 years ago, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote a solo piano piece for every month of the year called The Seasons. Now saxophonist Ben Wendel has taken this famous body of work and reinterpreted each piece by bringing along a different artist every month. Reviewer Michelle Mercer says through these collaborations, Wendel is giving the listener insight into some of today’s sharpest musicians.” – Michelle Mercer, NPR-All Things Considered