For The Seasons, the American saxophonist Ben Wendel has chosen to play in a quintet. This is his fourth album in a solo career that runs alongside his jazz-fusion outfit Kneebody. It takes us through the seasonal calendar in a musical journey inspired by Tchaikovsky’s piano suite and a painting by Lee Krasner. But far from any descriptive naturalism or heavy symbolism, it focuses instead on the radiance of the days and the months.
Is it the nasal sharpness of the sax that gives us the sense of being enshrouded in Scandinavian mists? The sound is curiously Norwegian, reminiscent of Jan Garbarek and Elvind Aarset. It is not far removed from Gilad Hekselman’s guitar stylings either.
The rhythm section – Aaron Parks (piano), Matt Brewer (bass) and Eric Harland (drums) – almost seem to knead a dough of sound that provides a base for bright bursts of guitar and for flights of sax. It has a nervous energy and minimal romance; the kind of melody that is implicit to the postmodern jazz landscape. As we listen, we allow it to seduce us little by little: the subtlety of “March,” the Rollinsian expressiveness of “September” (the album’s shortest track), the rock energy of “October” and the disorder of “December.”
Ben Wendel, The Seasons (Motéma)