Wolfe, who has worked with a slew of well-known artists ranging from Diana Krall to Wynton Marsalis to James Moody to Harry Connick Jr., clearly loves melody and writes pieces that have solid tunes yet leave space for solos. Only 2 of the 12 tracks are over 6 minutes and 5 are under 5 minutes. The program opens with “Heroist“, an up-tempo romp that starts with a McCoy Tyner-groove before galloping into the piano. Dillard flies over the opening groove on his soprano with Edwards urging him on. The soprano takes the lead on “Hat In Hand“, the first of several heartfelt ballads that are musically and emotionally satisfying. “Love Is Near” is another, this time with Dillard on tenor saxophone, his breathy tone reminiscent of Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. Listen to how Wolfe makes each note count and Edwards barely brushing the snare and his cymbals as well as Evans’s soft touch on the piano. Dillard returns to soprano for Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are“, the only piece not composed by the bassist. The piano lines are so well-placed, with a blend of straight-forward phrases and “impressionistic” chords. Josh Evans takes the place of Orrin Evans on the bopping “S.T.F.U“, his exuberant playing pushing Dillard to a frisky soprano solo.
Edwards opens the longest track, “Chronos” (7:15) with a high-stepping drum solo before the band enters on a funky groove. The piece is spiced by the various interactions, especially between Evans and Dillard (tenor) and then Dillard with Edwards. The angular piano solo over Wolfe’s rapid walking lines and Edwards’ hop-scotch drums fills is a treat. The drummer’s cymbal work throughout the CD is perfectly captured by engineer Nick O’Toole, filling the sound spectrum with clicking sticks, the gentle touch on the ride and splash cymbals plus the occasional storms Edwards produces in support of the soloists. He can sound so “free” at times; Wolfe’s rock-solid foundation allows Edwards the opportunity to play (you can really hear him listening and reacting to the pianist and saxophonist.)
Ben Wolfe doesn’t feel the need to solo on every track but he sets the table for bandmates to pay their best. His mature compositions give “The Whisperer” a timeless quality; this is music that builds upon the sounds that Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter discovered in the 1960s. Mr. Wolfe and his cadre of excellent musicians do not copy any of those mentioned above, making his pieces sound fresh and alive. For more information, go towww.posi-tone.com/whisperer/whisperer.html.