Bennie Wallace, we are glad you are back from Hollywood...
I whole-heartedly agree with magazine-mate Glenn Astarita in his summation of Bennie Wallace’s new Enja recording Bennie Wallace in Berlin, when he states that "Bennie Wallace is irrefutably one of the finest tenor saxophonists alive." I am a relative late comer to Mr. Wallace’s music. I had known him by reputation and reading (two ways of "knowing" that are sorely lacking once compared to listening ), and Live in Berlin is the first of the Tennessee-native’s recordings I have scrutinized. After listening to Mr. Wallace’s brand of Gershwin, I acquired a copy of his last Enja release Someone to Watch over Me (9356, 1999). This is where I will start...
At a time when one would think that he or she could not hear one more endearing saxophone treatment of Gershwin war-horses, Bennie Wallace arrives with his highly personal tribute. Highly personal is how I would describe his saxophone style which approximates that of Ben Webster had he, rather than Eric Dolphy, had played with John Coltrane. This recording employs the very fine Mulgrew Miller on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Yoron Israel on the drums. This quartet deftly breaths later 20th Century life into the Gershwin Canon. Wallace and Miller’s duet on the title track says it all.
Now, translate the above into live performance. The Gershwin expert George Cables replaces Miller and Marsalis alumni Herlin Riley replace Israel in the traps chair. Wallace’s Gershwin performances in Berlin far surpass his studio versions. "It Ain't Necessarily So" opens with Herlin Riley setting the groove under two choruses of George Cables. Wallace enters and blows his raspy personality into the standard. His solo is angular and craggy, what one might expect from a post-Coltrane saxophonist. The rhythm section is superior and this sets the stage for the remainder of the disc. Wallace reprises two additional offerings form his Gershwin disc and offers a couple of originals, one, "Thangs," his transmogrified "All The Things You Are."
Wallace is a rare talent with a very personal, albeit idiosyncratic, style. Listening to this makes one wonder why his light continues to burn under a basket.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.