Friday, August 16, 2013

Dan Tepfer & Ben Wendel - NYC Jazz Record

Dan Tepfer/Ben Wendel
Small Constructions

From the front of Small Constructions a couple of cleancut,
barefoot dudes rest on top of a rather expensive
musical instrument surrounded by the many other
expensive musical instruments they used to create this
album. Those 20 fingers and four ears managed, in just
four days, to record a dozen tunes testifying to their
telepathic sense of understanding and mastery of the
studio. The approach employed by pianist Dan Tepfer
and saxophonist Ben Wendel is quite a sound,
generating a two-man orchestra in minutes.

Wendel and Tepfer penned four tunes apiece while
the final track, “Oblique Strategy”, is a collaborative
party trick that transcends the idea. The duo trade
instruments for a reflective ballad, an appreciated
closer for a whirlwind recording, fitting perfectly into
the scope of the album.

A pair of Monk tunes, “Pannonica” and “Ask Me
Now”, highlight their respectful interpretations with
sensitive, straightforward readings. On “Line Up” the
duo simultaneously channels Wendy Carlos Williams
and Lennie Tristano, launching into a dizzying display
of technique and production that can leave the listener
breathless, never mind the musicians. It’s a remarkable
display that warrants countless listenings and no
doubt many failed attempts at recreation in basement
practice spaces. A similar vibe penetrates Tepfer’s
“Nines” as an ominous oscillation fills every beat,
Wendel dropping cartwheels over the tension.
“Gratitude” slows the affair with a rich layer provided
by no less than six horn overdubs and a stretched
melodica resembling high strings. The duo even digs
into some Handel with “Variation 1 in D minor”.
Wendel sets up a seamless four-part harmony, his
bassoon holding down the gentle sway, as Tepfer
conjures his own slow and swinging Baroque phrases.

There is a natural apprehension to overlyproduced jazz
recordings but Wendel and Tepfer have created a winning
combination of studio magic and musical wizardry.
When they dig into a pocket symphony, every sound
is essential while they frequently focus on their two
live voices interacting. The result is rich and impressive
and thankfully still deeply rooted in spur-of-the-moment

Dan Tepfer/Ben Wendel @ NYC Jazz Record

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