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iTunes Review

On Ben Wendel’s third album, the talented reedist/melodica player/sometimes pianist shines as an instrumentalist, composer, and collaborator. He wrote all but one piece and alternates between three distinct pianists: Gerald Clayton, former bandleader boss Tigran Hamasyan, and Adam Benjamin, who also plays Fender Rhodes on two tracks. Like Benjamin, drummer Nate Wood is in the dynamic collective Kneebody with Wendel; guitarist Nir Felder and bassist Ben Street complete the Frame personnel. Opener “Chorale” has swelling dynamics and group interplay that recall Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti,” while bonus track “Upwelling” deals in atmospherics through Street’s mystical brushwork and Felder’s sustained tones. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” is interpreted as a Wendel-Clayton tenor/piano duet, and “Jean and Renata” glides as a lean saxophone trio number.

Customer Reviews


If Ben's 2nd album is indeed a "Frame" for his patiently painted yet relentless artistic vision, there remains a wealth of undiscovered sketches stashed in layers behind the canvas. I cannot pretend to fully comprehend the craftsmanship behind this album; nothing is in four (I think...) and nothing is conventionally tonal. But the meters are nonetheless danceable and the melodies effortlessly singable, both of which are aspects the seem to escape the forced cerebral quality of so many lesser modern jazz albums. The listener immediately understands that Ben's compositional rigor takes no element of a piece for granted. He views bass, piano, drums, guitar, and reeds as instruments that can develop a cellular motive, reference a melody, or spark a dynamic shift in energy. A phrase-ending in Clayland is transformed into a robust D7b6 modal bass line. A cryptic 9/8 ostinato shifts into a groovy 3 on "Blocks," but not until over 3 minutes into the piece. In this sense, "Frame" bears a strong resemblance to the compositional experiments of the Modern Jazz Quartet, but with the pop-infused, Bartok-inpsired aesthetic that has gained him such monstrous acclaim with the group "Kneebody." But the musicians on "Frame" handle the compositional complexity with each, and Wendel straight up destroys on every solo with a cleanliness and cool virtuosity for which he is rapidly gaining reputation.
But what makes "Frame" an album that the listener will leave on repeat, and what makes it stand apart from his first album, "Simple Song" (another must have), in Wendel's intimate expressiveness and mature personality. His growth as a jazz soloist in this regard is especially prevalent on "Con Alma," subtly reharmonized in duo with Gerald Clayton, and the improvisational tour de force, "Jean and Renata." Wendel's commitment to a modern soulfulness compels me to rethink my initial interpretation of the album title as a metaphor between a frame's purpose of defining a space in visual art, and an album's purpose of defining a space in aural art. Perhaps Ben's "Frame" is actually a window frame, out of which Wendel thoughtfully contemplates the whirlwind musical world of today, in all of its hyper-diversity and genre-disintegrating. And through this window listener sees the unconditional and very human passion one of the greatest young musicians has for such a world.

I dwell in Possibility -
A fairer House than Prose -
More numerous of Windows -
Superior - for Doors -

Of Chambers as the Cedars -
Impregnable of eye -
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky -

Of Visitors - the fairest -
For Occupation - This -
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise -

Emily Dickinson

A must buy!

Wonderful new album from one of my favorite musicians of this generation! Well worth the purchase!

Gorgeous and powerful compositions

This album could not be more beautiful. Ben Wendel is on the scene/


Born: February 20, 1976 in Vancouver, Canada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Saxophonist Ben Wendel is an adventurous improviser and composer with a bent toward genre-bending jazz. Born in Vancouver and raised in Santa Monica, California, Wendel grew up in a creative, musically inclined family. Encouraged to pursue music from a young age by his mother, opera soprano and arts administrator Dale Franzen, Wendel started out on the piano at age five and began playing the saxophone around age ten. In his teens, he balanced his time between playing saxophone and bassoon and listening...
Full Bio

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Frame, Ben Wendel
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Rock
  • Released: Feb 28, 2012

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