A standout track on the album is Wendel's duet with Clayton on the classic Dizzy Gillespie composition, “Con Alma,” a tune that has been recorded countless times of the last 70 years, yet they manage to find a fresh interpretation. Clayton subtly reharmonizes the tune, implying “Giant Steps” changes. The two work in tandem, each alternating between accompanying and featured roles.
At this point, Tigran Hamasyan takes over the piano chair and the mood changes accordingly. On “Backbou,” Wendel switches to bassoon, changing the timbre of the track to something like chamber rock music. The rhythmic layering builds towards a rock-out climax as Hamasyan pounds away at the keys. The various independent, rhythmically charged lines, mesh like gears in a pocket watch.
Wendel closes the album with a beautiful, almost classical piece called “Julia.” Wood's simple steady pulse is incredibly effective, and a nice change of pace from all the chops laden drumming of the rest of the album. The piece builds from nearly nothing, and ends with a pop-like anthem that almost invites a sing-along with the listener.
Overall, Frame is an excellent record with many lovely moments and interesting compositions. Wendel is a versatile composer and improviser, who obviously checks out a lot of different music. However, in his effort to showcase himself and the various stylistic hats that he wears, he doesn't quite find the open freedom in most of the tracks that could really let his truly excellent band shine. That being said, I look forward to his next effort as a leader.
Februrary 28th, 2012 on Sunny Side Records
Ben Wendel - Saxophones, Bassoon, and Melodica Gerald Clayton - (Tracks 1,2,3) Piano Tigran Hamasyan - (Tracks 4,6,7) Piano Nir Felder - Guitar Adam Benjamin - (Tracks 1,4,6,7) Piano and (Tracks 8,9) Fender Rhodes Ben Street - Bass Nate Wood - Drums
- Con Alma
- Jean and Renata