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Ben Wendel On 'The Unspeakable Truths' That Are Passed Between Musicians


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For saxophonist Ben Wendel, the pandemic provided the space for him to develop his latest solo record, All One (Edition Records), a project that is both very solitary and very collaborative. It features a woodwind choir of saxophones and bassoons performed entirely by Ben, and then joined by special guests like singers Cecile McLorin Salvant and José James, guitarist Bill Frisell, and trumpeter Terence Blanchard.

Wendel is no stranger to experimentation or to collaboration. As a member of the genre bending group Kneebody, he has always had one foot in contemporary music. And previous solo projects were motivated by his desire to collaborate, like The Seasons which found him composing 12 original pieces dedicated to 12 musicians he admired and then performed with those musicians.

Wendell performed at the Village Vanguard in New York earlier this spring. He was joined by his longtime friend and musical partner, drummer Nate Wood, Harish Raghavan on bass, Gilad Hekselman and Nir Felder on guitar (they split the week between them) and Larry Goldings on piano.

We spoke that week about playing in that sacred space, his desire to connect and to belong, his ongoing negotiation with technology, and how his personal experience during the pandemic influenced his music. Plus, learning the ineffable wisdom of his elders in the music.

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