'Who's Who' Of The Jazz World

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Wednesday February 06, 2019

From Twin Cities Media

A Real ‘Who’s Who’ Of The Jazz World With Ben Wendel Seasons Band At The Parkway Theater
By: Christian Rasmussen

‘And I thought New York was cold!’

The audience laughed as saxophonist Ben Wendel bantered into the mic while his ‘Seasons Band’ got situated in the Parkway’s newly renovated theater on a cold, blustery February evening. That evening, Ben Wendel had arrived with a group composed of some of the hottest names in the current jazz world to perform music from the recently released album ‘The Seasons’. The album, which began as YouTube videos of 12 duets- one for each month- composed by Wendel for 12 different collaborators, consists of the 12 compositions reimagined for a hard hitting quintet consisting of the saxophonist, Matt Brewer (bass), Aaron Parks (piano), Gilad Hekselman (guitar) and Eric Harland (drums).

The show opened with ‘February’, and bouncing, syncopated homage to the current month. The thing I noticed right off the bat was not only how much the musicians onstage were subtly communicating with each other, but how much they were laughing, smiling and reacting to each others solos with a shake of the head here and an audible ‘woah!’ there. I always find it easier to enjoy a show when the musicians putting it on are clearly enjoying themselves. They followed ‘February’ with ‘November’ and then ‘October’, which opened with a short guitar solo by Hekselman, and provided Matt Brewer with a pointillistic ostinato to lay down an inspiring bass solo over.

Save for Eric Harland, every musician onstage had a set of pedals they would use to alter the tone of their instruments in interesting ways. At a few points, Wendel would remove the mic from his saxophone and sing into it, manipulating the notes with his pedal to add delay and harmonizing notes to his voice (and to his sax when he had the mic attached). Sometimes musicians will use effects as a crutch to mask mediocre playing, but the musicians onstage used the effects so tastefully and uniquely to accentuate their playing and not cover it up.

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