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Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project at Smalls

Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project at Smalls

Courtesy Monique Witt

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Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project
Smalls Jazz Club
Album release concert
New York, NY
March 2, 2023

Beginning an east coast set of bookings, before a nationwide tour, and starting in the heart of New York City to promote his latest release A Thousand Pebbles (One Trick Dog, 2023), jazz pianist and accordionist Ben Rosenblum and his sextet are in familiar territory. Rosenblum and several band members are natives of Manhattan and Brooklyn and have been musically connected since their late teens. Rosenblum, a Julliard-Columbia trained pianist, has been performing in many of NYC's well-known smaller jazz club haunts since his first release Instead (Self Produced, 2017)

The inspiration for this release came from a New York-centered upbringing and mixing of cultures. Growing up, Rosenblum attended synagogue and absorbed the tenets of atonement, and as reflected upon in his conversation with All About Jazz, his takeaway was a maxim: "doing better in our actions in our daily life." Several of the compositions also speak to a social upheaval or political change requiring a human response, and by his own admission, all of his work is a narrative, "to tell a compelling story with the music, while also reaching the hearts of the audience."

A Thousand Pebbles' compositions range in diversity and style from straight ahead jazz to Brazilian forró (lively dance music) to Irish jigs to Bulgarian folkloric styles, delivering on a wide variety of musical influences. Rosenblum features prominently with both of his instruments, the piano and accordion, including multiple sections where he plays both.

His accompaniment for this set was a constellation of in-demand NYC-based talent and seasoned session players, who are also bandleaders, composers, and educators in their own right: trumpeter Wayne Tucker, guitarist Rafael Rosa, reed expert Jasper Dutz, bassist Marty Jaffe, and drummer Ben Zweig along with new addition Xavier Del Castillo on tenor sax and flute.

In front of a sold-out crowd in a packed Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, Rosenblum featured the album's centerpiece, "A Thousand Pebbles," a 3-part suite that runs about 40 minutes. As a reflection on his hymnal singing at synagogue, the trumpet introduction leads like a choral voice, and then the fast-paced, hard-bop style of "Road to Recollection" kicks-in with Rosenblum's keyboard soloing with accompanying horns and bursting trumpet and saxophone response, with the stand-up bassist keeping quick tempo and the drummer's driving beat. Rosenblum's accordion emerges next on "The Gathering" the 2nd part of the suite, as he delivers an entrancing Eastern European folk-style melody overlay to the jazz counter-part of the horn section, as a sentimental serenade is carried-off by horn soloists Wayne Tucker on trumpet, Xavier Del Castillo on tenor sax and reed expert Jasper Dutz. The final part, "Living Streams" closes with a beautifully rich hymnal refrain, (based on the chord changes for the Bible's Psalm 23), with a sumptuous guitar solo that lastly brings the chorus of other instruments together to close the repeated musical verse.

Rather than A Thousand Pebbles being a spiritual journey, Rosenblum explains, "I think of it more as a reflection on childhood, trying to understand these huge forces and concepts, trying to find your own meaning in all these different traditions." There was clearly support for this theme and performance, as Rosenblum and bandmates of his Nebula Project received a standing ovation from the crowd at Smalls, including family, friends and new listeners.

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