Ben Wendel: THE SEASONS

By NATE CHINEN
FEB. 27, 2015
A tenor saxophonist, bassoonist and composer with an unassuming breadth of style, Ben Wendel has made a subspecialty out of duologue, recently and notably with the pianist Dan Tepfer. For his new project — “The Seasons,” inspired by the Tchaikovsky piano suite of the same name — Mr. Wendel is unveiling a new duet every month this year, with video freely available at benwendel.com/theseasons. He conceived each piece with a handpicked collaborator in mind, like the pianist Taylor Eigsti, whose playing on “January” suggests a swirl of deft angularities and busy composure. “February,” which was posted on Feb. 23, is a more driving proposition: Mr. Wendel and one of his saxophone influences, Joshua Redman, dart through its syncopated form with an intense but collegial give and take. Both videos spotlight terrifically assured performances with sharp production values, raising expectations for Mr. Wendel’s 10 remaining installments, with partners yet to be revealed.