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Ben Wendel CD reviewed

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Friday September 09, 2016

From The Ottawa Citizen

Ben Wendel CD reviewed
By: Peter Hum

A few years ago, I was on the phone with saxophonist Ben Wendel, and we were kidding about how an overly analytical listener might describe the music he helped make with the band Kneebody.

“If you want to use hyphenates, go ahead,” he kidded. Maybe he meant jazz-rock-fusion or some such phrase that thumbed its nose at musical genres.

“Thirty-three-per-cent jazz, 25-per-cent electronica,” I responded, becoming more precise.

“Totally! That would be great! Seven-per-cent prog.” Wendel shot back.

He and I could have an equally facetious exchange right now, if we were talking about Wendel’s new album, What We Bring, which launches today.

A quartet disc with an acoustic rhythm section at its core, backing up Wendel, the CD not as electronic and forthrightly fusion-y as Kneebody’s fascinating, highly kinetic output. But over its eight tracks, there’s no mistaking the eclectic music-lover at its helm. After all, one of the disc’s covers is Doubt, by the indie folk duo Wye Oak. Wendel, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Henry Cole, and guest drummer (and Kneebody stalwart Nate Wood) transforms that dreamy, melancholy, minimalist piece into something that sounds like this...

…In all, Wendel’s album is a deeply focused, stimulating and modern musical treat, perfect not just for jazz listeners but — let’s hope — also for open-minded listeners to all those other genres. Surely it’s not just the jazzheads who can appreciate what happens when originality and virtuosity are brought to the table to create something beautiful and greater than those attributes.

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