by Nate Chinen, WBGO
Ben Wolfe, “Blind Seven” (Featuring Joel Ross and Immanuel Wilkins)
Ben Wolfe, the ever-tasteful, always swinging bassist, lost his father last year. As a tribute (and no doubt as part of his grieving process), he decided to make an album, calling it Fatherhood. Due out on Aug. 30, it’s an earnest and often beautifully crafted statement, featuring longtime colleagues as well as shining up-and-comers. The album opens with a refurbished Wolfe classic titled “Blind Seven,” loosely built on the harmonic framework of “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm.
This version of the song, which Wolfe has recorded before, opens with a vibraphone solo by Joel Ross, as the rhythm section (with Donald Edwards on drums) swings behind him. Then Ross hands the solo baton to alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, who takes a turn before handing it back again. As this action unfolds, a string quartet bubbles up from the background. The full band — horns and strings both — hit the melody just before the two-minute mark, with boppish flair.
The contributions of the string quartet help enact the album’s homage: Dan Wolfe, Ben’s father, was a violinist. “The string quartet parts are written in a way where at times they know when to enter,” Wolfe writes, “but the tempo they are playing is up to them as a quartet — the string part creates a fabric for the tune.”
The Ben Wolfe Quintet, featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker and vibraphonist Warren Wolf, will appear at Dizzy’s Club from Aug. 1-4.
Kenyatta Beasley Septet, “Katherine the Great (Featuring Wynton Marsalis)”
An awful lot has happened in the world since trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley recorded Frank Foster Songbook, over two nights at Jazz 966 in Brooklyn back in 2013. But the salient fact of the album — Foster’s towering influence on Beasley, and his enduring place in the jazz pantheon — is no less true today. Which makes the album, releasing this Friday, at once a testimonial time capsule and a timeless testimonial.
Beasley decided to pay his homage with a septet, stocking the front line with Eric Wyatt and Mark Gross on saxophones and Vincent Gardner on trombone. There are special guests on a handful of tracks — including “Katherine the Great,” one of the tunes Foster brought to the Count Basie Orchestra, during his time at the helm.
The guest is Wynton Marsalis, one of Beasley’s trumpet idols, and (as he points out) a product of the same arts high school in New Orleans. One way of enjoying the track is as a Tale of Two Trumpeters: Marsalis begins his solo just after 2:15, and Beasley takes over (following turns by Wyatt, Gross and Gardner) at 11:05.