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Songs We Love: Ben Wendel Group, 'Doubt'

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Thursday September 01, 2016

From NPR

Songs We Love: Ben Wendel Group, ‘Doubt’
By: Patrick Jarenwattananon

Sometimes in jazz, a melody is an excuse. It gets played once at the start and again at the end, becoming a suggestive frame upon which to improvise; sometimes it might as well be dispensed with entirely. That can be liberating and dazzling and creatively rich. But sometimes a melody deserves much more. Sometimes it is more essential; even if its mass feels relatively light, its gravity remains immense. Sometimes it demands a whole song to express itself.

The latter is one tactic deployed by Ben Wendel, a saxophonist who leads his own band on an upcoming record called What We Bring. He’s a noted composer who understands the many ways a melody functions, and he’s also part of the band Kneebody, which is somewhere between jazz and everything else. In the video premiered above, he’s chosen to read the song “Doubt,” written by — well, we’ll get to that. For a “jazz” performance, there’s a notable lack of extended solo improvisation: really only one run through the full form, and even much of that hews close to the contours of the tune. Then, as the earliest jazz performers did before the music had uneasily settled upon its name, Wendel continues to embellish the melody over and over. (The album take on this tune, heard in the audio-only version, is a little more compacted.) He vamps on the last phrase, raising and lowering the intensity, flood and ebb.

To read the full article and watch the video for “Doubt” click here