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Ben Wolfe Quintet: Live at Smalls

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Ben Wolfe Quintet: Live at Smalls In New York City, there's a popular venue known as Smalls Jazz Club. The Ben Wolfe Quintet introduces a series of performance recordings, simply titled Smalls Live.

A Baltimore native, Wolfe's professional associations include Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr. and Diana Krall. He is currently a faculty member at Julliard School of Music, Jazz Division.

The high-energy, attention-grabbing "Block 11"—one of nine songs, all composed and arranged by Wolfe—begins the set, with Ryan Kisor's blistering trumpet inspiring thoughts of the late Freddie Hubbard. Pianist Luis Perdomo delivers a solo, accompanied only by Wolfe and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. The band slows to a near stop before shifting back into gear as tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland follows with a passionate solo, supported by Hutchinson, as the song downshifts again for its conclusion.

The band swings on the easygoing "Telescope," with trumpet and sax blending for the melody before splitting into layered leads. Strickland takes point for a pleasure jaunt while, after Perdomo's solo, Hutchinson shows his skills in a call-and-response with the rest of the group. Te closing "The Trade" is a brief duet for Wolfe and Hutchinson.

Musically, there's nothing to complain about here, with Wolfe and his sidemen tight throughout the disc. The only negative is the packaging. Dark purple print over a solid black background makes it difficult to read song titles, players' instruments and other notes. Despite that, Live at Smalls scores big.


Track Listing: Block 11; For the Great Sonny Clark; Telescope; Contraption; Unjust; I'll Know You More; Double Czech; Coleman's Cab; The Trade.

Personnel: Ben Wolfe: acoustic bass; Marcus Strickland: tenor saxophone; Ryan Kisor: trumpet; Luis Perdomo: piano; Gregory Hutchinson: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Style: Modern Jazz


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