Ben Wendel What We Bring Review

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Monday September 05, 2016

From Chicago Reader

Ben Wendel Quartet
By: Peter Margasak

In his work with the hard-hitting electric-jazz combo Kneebody reedist Ben Wendel looks forward, pushing jazz into liminal spaces between stylistic disciplines while largely shutting out the genre’s past. He embraces a much different mind-set on his new acoustic-quartet album, What We Bring (Motema). It’s a record that still aims ahead, but one that does so by examining and reformulating specific moments in jazz history. An anagram of John Coltrane’s classic ‘Naima,’ throttling opener ‘Amian’ slices and dices the original melody while also sharing the practice of tenor blowing that keeps it floating weightlessly over a churning groove. The reedist wrote ‘Song Song’ after he gorged himself on a live version of Ahmad Jamal’s hit ‘Poinciana,’ creating a loping rhythm with an indelible bass line by Joe Sanders, an infectious beat pattern by Henry Cole, and an elegant, tightly coiled piano solo by Gerald Clayton. What We Bring includes two very sleek, meticulous arrangements that originally appeared as part of Wendel’s online Seasons project, for which he wrote a duo piece each month for different instrumentalists. The quartet also reinvents the fragile ballad ‘Doubt’ by indie-rock band Wye Oak, reinforcing the wobbly melody line but giving it a rhythmic backbone absent from the original. The same lineup from the recording performs here.

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