5 Stars for Ben Wendel at the Vortex Jazz Club

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Friday July 19, 2019

From The The Financial Times

Ben Wendel’s ‘Seasons’ at the Vortex Jazz Club London ‘” joyous themes and emotional heat

“The link between Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons and the music presented here by American saxophonist Ben Wendel’s jazz quintet is tortuous. Tchaikovsky’s 12 piano pieces, written for each month of the year, were published sequentially in 1876, in the St Petersburg magazine that commissioned them. Each month had a scene-setting subtitle ‘” ‘At the Fireside’ for January; ‘The Song of the Lark’ announces the imminence of spring in March; ‘Troika’ the return of winter’s grip in November.

The Brooklyn-based Wendel’s compositions of the same name, all duets, were also made public a month at a time, posted as YouTube videos in 2015. Each month presented a favourite musician, and the 12 chamber jazz duets were designed to reflect seasonal change in the face of climate change. Melodic twiddles, the occasional quote, and compositional rigour aside, the musical connection ends there ‘” but the story continues.

Wendel expanded his duet intricacies into technically demanding small-group jazz after seeing Lee Krasner’s bulbous expressionist painting The Seasons. Luckily, the Vancouver-born Wendel, co-founder of the raucous multi-genre band Kneebody, has musical virtuosity on tap. For his duets, he combined with the likes of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Eric Harland, while tonight’s band, which has been touring for nearly a year, was powered by in-favour bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Kendrick Scott.”

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