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Josh Lawrence’s fascination with colors comes out on “Contrast”

The young trumpeter Josh Lawrence is making quite a splash on the contemporary scene as a player and composer.  “Contrast” is his second Posi-Tone album within 12 months to feature his Color Theory ensemble. What a fine band!  The rhythm section includes the Curtis Brothers, Zaccai (keyboards) and Luques (bass) plus Anwar Marshall (drums) while the front line has Lawrence paired with alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis (no relation to the Brothers).  Orrin Evans joins the band on piano for several tracks as does trombonist David Gibson.

The album has two distinct sections.  The first four tracks have the bop and hard bop feel of Lawrence’s 2017 “Color Theory“, shorter tunes with melodic heads and fine solos (“Dominant Curve” is a standout cut with its Charlie Parker-type melody and attack). The program changes on track #5, the powerful “In The Black Square.”  Now, the influence is McCoy Tyner and the music he began to make in the early 1970s.  The shifting rhythms (Marshall is on fire here), the pounding piano chords, and the leader’s fiery solo.

The next song, “Gray“, is a handsome piece fueled by the richly melodic lines of Luques Curtis, the active drums and cymbals, and the adventurous work of Lawrence and Caleb Curtis. It opens in a fiery tone with the front line dancing through the melody and then the alto sax rides atop the rhythm section.  Following that, the song slows down, with quiet sax and muted trumpet – Lawrence builds a fascinating solo, rolling his lines around the drums and bass then moving “out” near the end before the sax returns.  Drums and bass reintroduce the opening section, the front line repeat the original melody and the piece romps to its close.  There’s a touch of electronics on the muted trumpet opening of “Brown“, with Lawrence and Caleb Curtis exploring a fine melody.  The power is kicked up a notch on “Agent Orange”, the rubato opening featuring trumpet, saxophone, and trombone.  Gibson takes the first pass through the melody pushed forward by Zaccai Curtis’s powerful piano chords. Note the slight change as the bass and drums fall in to a driving rhythm for the sax solo.  Lawrence has a powerful interaction with the pianist, giving the piece the feel of the classic Miles Davis Quintet music of the mid-1960s.  The music fades with the pianist playing “My Country, Tis of Thee” over quiet cymbal touches.

Orrin Evans on acoustic piano and Zaccai Curtis on Rhodes ride a funky beat at the onset of “Blues On The Bridge.” The opening is reminiscent of Julius Hemphill’s “The Hard Blues” but, when the keyboards kick in, the song moves into Cannonball Adderley style rhythm ‘n’ blues.  The groove opens up for the trumpet solo gets back to its original “greasiness” for Evans’s playful solo.

The program closes with a soft version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April“, just muted trumpet and piano (Evans again), a lovely tribute to the artist. The version does not stray far from the original ballad, the piano giving the song more weight than Prince’s acoustic guitar and trembling voice.

Contrast” continues Josh Lawrence‘s fascination with colors and illustrates how the trumpeter is expanding his palette.  He is growing as an artist on so many levels, not just as an excellent soloist but as a composer and bandleader.  Grab ahold of this album and get into its grooves – the music is very alive and moving!

Richard Kamins – Step Tempest

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Nick Bewsey reviews Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer” for Icon Magazine…


Ben Wolfe ★★★★

The Whisperer


Bassist Ben Wolfe keeps a low profile on The Whisperer and his subtle presence clues you in to the album’s title. It’s as if he’s inviting you to listen to how good his band sounds. A refined musician, Wolfe stealthily defers to the vibrant soprano and tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard to voice his compositions while rounding out his quartet with an essential Orrin Evans on piano and the surefire drummer Donald Edwards. The quartet shines as a unit, deftly navigating the changes on sharply edged tunes—the excellent “Heroist” has a surging groove and features an arresting solo by Evans. Among several strong ballads, the best is the graceful “Hat In Hand,” a deliberate and lovely number with a fulsome melody and warm late-night glow. This excellent album makes for a rewarding listen. Fine writing, superlative improvisation, experienced leadership and Wolfe’s steadfast bass gives The Whisperer its juice.  (12 tracks; 60 minutes)

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David Orthmann reviews Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer” for AAJ…



While swimming in the rather large body of sounds that comprise the jazz mainstream, Ben Wolfe‘s The Whisperer evinces no obvious stylistic points of reference or influence, possesses unusual depth, and adds up to something larger and more significant than a composite of impressive individual performances. Wolfe’s compositions—eleven out of the disc’s twelve tracks—comprise the record’s core. He crafts melodies that are familiar in a good way, and encases them in tightly knit, logical, non-standard forms.

There’s a marvelous sense of connectedness in the compositions, ensemble playing, and the overall relationship between Wolfe’s bass, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy Dillard, pianist Orrin Evans, and drummer Donald Edwards—as well as trumpeter Josh Evans, who plays on one track. Most of these musicians have displayed resolute, highly individualistic personalities on previous recording projects. Throughout The Whisperer they seem to be laying back just a little, each curtailing a determined stride down his own path in favor of intently listening and thoughtfully responding to one another. In small doses their strengths are magnified. The totality of all of these overlapping relationships makes it hard to imagine the compositions without the individuals playing them; conversely, it’s difficult to fathom the rich, nuanced, performances outside of the context of Wolfe’s compositions. 

The Whisperer is a record that resists the isolating of crowning moments. Wolfe’s and Edwards’ introductions to the middling-to-up tempo tracks “S.T.F.U.” and “The Balcony” epitomize supple and authoritative swing. Edwards’ deliberate, murmuring time at the onset of “Hat In Hand” sets things up while barely causing a ripple. Throughout Orrin Evans’ solo on “The Whisperer,” the pianist engages Wolfe and Edwards in a firm, percussive push forward. Towards the end of “Becoming Brothers,” the quartet stretches the theme in various ways without betraying its essence. Framed by Evans’ solo piano, the blue ballad “If Only” contains easily recognizable elements, yet never becomes rote or predictable.

To experience the full effect of Wolfe’s music, it’s wise to listen to the disc in one sitting; if that’s not possible, a block of four or five tracks at a time will do. Though all hands (including Josh Evans, whose turn on “S.T.F.U.” makes one want to hear more of him) are arresting soloists, any attempt to reduce the record to a series of individual accomplishments misses the point. In the end, it’s the group in toto that makes The Whisperer a feast for the soul and the intellect.

Track Listing: Heroist; Hat In Hand; Community; Love Is Near; S.T.F.U.; Camelot’s Lean; Chronos; All The Things You Are; The Whisperer; Becoming Brothers; The Balcony; If Only.

Personnel: Ben Wolfe: bass; Orrin Evans: piano; Stacy Dillard: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Donald Edwards: drums; Josh Evans: trumpet (5).


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Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer” gets reviewed by Dusted Writer Derek Taylor


Working with big personalities is a recurring theme in bassist Ben Wolfe’s career arc. Half a decade spent in the employ of Harry Connick Jr. as the pianist’s musical director led to an extended tenure with Wynton Marsalis and ongoing membership in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Wolfe parlayed those high profile assignments into a professional relationship with Grammy-winning singer Diana Krall. Along the way came gigs with Joe Henderson, Harry “Sweets” Edison, James Moody and other jazz royalty. All that name-dropping suggests an operator able to meet his bandleaders’ needs in an exacting and superlative fashion.

The Whisperer, Wolfe’s latest as a leader, points to one of the potential side effects of being a successful sideman to the stars. When a musician devotes his talent regularly to that kind of wattage does his own individuality and assertiveness necessarily suffer in the bargain? Put differently, when one is accustomed to delivering top flight work for others does it become at all difficult to switch gears into a leadership role? Wolfe’s lead-from-behind approach here suggests a compelling case that while it very well might, the overall effect isn’t adverse or worth getting worked up about.

The band at hand draws directly from the lasting ties Wolfe developed with the vibrant scene operating out of the Greenwich Village jazz club Smalls. Pianist Orrin Evans, saxophonist Stacy Dillard and drummer Donald Edwards are all regulars there and the quartet evinces the kind of rapport built from nightly stage conclaves from the opening hard swinger “Heroist”. Wolfe walks confidently through most of the piece, leaving the fireworks to Evans and Dillard. The slow ballad “Hat in Hand” finds him gearing down to a more porous sound, spacing his notes judiciously against the steady cymbal splashes of Edwards. Dillard’s soprano glides through the theme in close concert with Evans and result is a standout track.

Aplomb is also abundantly apparent in Wolfe’s chosen songbook, all originals except for a pithy rendering of “All the Things You Are”. His writing is uniformly sharp, evidence again that all that time spent in the company of heavy hitters rubbed off in the form of a decisive compositional voice. “Community” has the soaring, effervescent openness of classic postbop and benefits directly from another spiraling Dillard turn on the straight horn.  “S.T.F.U.” mirrors the stern sentiment of its acronym title on the back of a funky bass groove and a guest spot by trumpeter Josh Evans who proves just as attuned as the others to Wolfe’s self-effacing intents and purposes. Evans and Dillard are the principal soloists on most pieces, suggesting not a reticence on the part of the leader, but rather an abiding confidence in the expertise of his colleagues.



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More coverage for “The Whisperer” by Ben Wolfe

Jazz Bassist/Composer Ben Wolfe Leads Quintet on “The Whisperer”

Ben Wolfe: The WhispererDouble bassist Ben Wolfe has worked alongside some of the jazz world’s biggest names, including Wynton Marsalis and Diana Krall. And as he’s done so, he has also forged his own impressive path as a player, composer and bandleader.

His latest recorded effort sees him heading up a quartet on The Whisperer. The record features him, Orrin Evans on piano, Donald Edwards on drums and Stacy Dillard on saxophone. The album has netted positive reviews, including two on All About Jazz. Wolfe composed 11 of the 12 songs on the album. Reviewer Bruce Lindsay lauds Wolfe’s work in his piece and even plays on the record’s hushed title, noting that The Whispererdeserves to have its appearance shouted from the rooftops: a fine recording.”

The Whisperer is available on CD and as a digital download (iTunes and Amazon MP3).

The Whisperer Track List:

  1. Heroist
  2. Hat in Hand
  3. Community
  4. Love Is Near
  5. S.T.F.U.
  6. Camelot’s Lean
  7. Chronos
  8. All the Things You Are
  9. The Whisperer
  10. Becoming Brothers
  11. The Balcony
  12. If Only



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Bop ‘n Jazz on Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer”…

Ben Wolfe The Whisperer Posi-Tone 2015

Bassist Ben Wolfe is a master technician with an all star band and the end result, The Whisperer!
There are certain things one can count on in life and they are death, taxes and Posi-Tone Records releasing some of the finest straight ahead improvisational music. The Whisperer is Wolfe’s first  Posi-Tone release and a showcase for his compositional prowess. There is an amazing organic soul to this release that is part of the new sound of modern jazz. The band is composed of underrated saxophonist Stacy Dillard, the magnificent Orrin Evans on piano and the rhythmic beast that is Donald Edwards.
Only one cover and that being a stellar reharm of “All The Things You Are” along with 11 originals from Wolfe. Odd meters, shifting dynmmics, and straight ahead swing make tunes such as “Love Is Near” along with “The Balcony” and “If Only” sound as though they are standards in the on deck circle. The Whisperer is what happens when you capture lighting in a bottle!


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Bruce Lindsay reviews Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer”…



Ben Wolfe is the man responsible for double bass duties for some of the most popular names in jazz. As well as his six previous albums as leader, in a recording career that extends back to the ’80s Wolfe can also be heard on a fist-full of recordings by Harry Connick Jr, Diana Krall and Wynton Marsalis among others. What keeps him gainfully employed by some of the jazz world’s biggest hitters? The Whisperer, a superb combination of great tunes and great playing, soon answers that question.

Wolfe’s partners on The Whisperer—pianist Orrin Evans, drummer Donald Edwards and saxophonist Stacy Dillard—might not be as world-renowned as Krall, Marsalis and company, but they’re prodigiously talented. Like Wolfe they all have impeccable taste, never over-playing, always supportive of each other. Evans’ comping is a masterclass in timing and effectiveness, Edwards is equally capable of combining with Wolfe to create and maintain the pulse or to spring from Wolfe’s steady bass rhythm to weave his percussion around the melody.

Wolfe’s talents as a writer are also much in evidence—with the exception of a mournful take on Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are” the tunes are Wolfe’s own. “Hat In Hand” and “Camelot’s Lean,” featuring Dillard on soprano, demonstrate the quartet’s laid-back, controlled, playing. The sound becomes noticeably warmer when Dillard moves to tenor sax on the melancholy “Love Is Near,” Dillard’s silky tone giving the number a softness that contrasts with the cooler soprano.

“Heroist,” anchored by Evans’ emphatic left hand and featuring Dillard’s wildest soprano, “The Balcony”—tenor and piano interweaving melodies built on the pulse of bass and drums—and the moody “Chronos” showcase a more up-tempo side. “The Whisperer” is a mid-tempo swinger—Wolfe and Edwards set up a sense of urgency, Evans’ comping evokes added suspense and Dillard’s tenor completes the noir-ish atmosphere. For drama, it’s the album’s star attraction.

Trumpeter Josh Evans joins in for “S.T.F.U.” Over Edwards and Wolfe’s bouncing, cheerful, rhythm, Dillard’s soprano and Evans’ trumpet engage in a conversation, or perhaps it’s an argument, before coming together for the closing section. As for the rather enigmatic title—”Some Things Feel Unusual,” or “Sunny Times For Us” perhaps? It doesn’t really matter: probably best to keep quiet about it. The Whisperer, by contrast, deserves to have its appearance shouted from the rooftops: a fine recording.




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All About Jazz covers Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer”…



You can always gauge a bassist-led recording by the players he attracts on the bandstand or in the studio. Proof of this premise isBen Wolfe‘s latest, The Whisperer. Just like Charles Mingus had his Jaki ByardBooker Ervin, and Dannie Richmond, andDave Holland his Craig TabornKevin Eubanks, and Eric Harland, Wolfe is also a magnet for talent. His past recordings featuredNed Goold and Joe Magnarelli on Murray’s Cadillac (Amosaya Music, 2000), Branford Marsalis and Terell Stafford on No Strangers Here (MaxJazz, 2008). His previous release From Here I See (MaxJazz, 2013) featured pianist Orrin Evans, drummer Donald Edwards and saxophonist JD Allen. With the exception of Stacy Dillard replacing Allan, the same lineup returns here. Each of Wolfe’s sidemen are distinguished band leaders themselves, and each has released noteworthy music recently.

Wolfe’s quartet shines navigating the twelve tracks here, which include eleven original compositions by the bassist, and Jerome Kern’s now-jazz standard “All The Things You Are.” Wolfe favors ballads, and Dillard’s saxophone abides throughout. He delivers the most gentle touch on “Hat In Hand” with a luscious soprano take that is echoed by Orrin Evan’s piano. “Love Is Near” conveys a sensual message via Dillard’s tenor, the wee small hours brushwork of Edwards, and a reserved piano and bass. If their approach was less than honest, the melancholy mood of “If Only” wouldn’t work. Clearly it does. Wolfe is a patient storyteller.

When the band does turn up the burners on tracks like “Chronos,” a complex funky swinger and the devilishly hip title track, the cohesion of the quartet is evident. Same for “S.T.F.U.” where trumpeter Josh Evans joins the quartet. Their controlled zeal conjures a vision of the players in Brooks Brothers suits, ties now appropriately undone.

Track Listing: Heroist; Hat In Hand; Community; Love Is Near; S.T.F.U.; Camelot’s Lean; Chronos; All The Things You Are; The Whisperer; Becoming Brothers; The Balcony; If Only.

Personnel: Ben Wolfe: bass; Orrin Evans: piano; Donald Edwards; drums; Stacy Dillard: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Josh Evans: trumpet (trk 5).

— Mark Corroto


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SomethingElse Reviews Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer”….



Ben Wolfe is a bassist who some of the biggest stars in jazz call upon. Star vocalists Harry Connick, Jr., Dianne Reeves and Diana Krall have worked extensively with him, and he’s also performed and recorded with Wynton & Branford Marsalis, Joe Henderson, Billy Higgins and Doc Cheatham.

Since 1997 Wolfe has made a number of records of his own, where as a leader he has uses those occasions to present his own compositions, sophisticated numbers in the mainstream jazz realm. His eighth one, The Whisperer, (out on February 17, 2015) marks his first one for Posi-Tone Records, and it’s a perfect match of artist and label.

That’s because Ben Wolfe leads sessions with top-flight personnel such as JD Allen, Marcus Strickland, and Jeff “Tain” Watts and executes with precision, grace and looseness, all Posi-Tone hallmarks. For The Whisperer, he carries over a couple of aces in pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Don Edwards from the prior 2013 offering From Here I See. The quartet is rounded out by Stacy Dillard on saxophones.

A bluesy mood permeates these performances and on a lot of them, the swing is supple and strong. That’s certainly the case for “Heroist,” where Evans delivers a taut solo and Edwards’ rhythms are deceptively complex, as Wolfe leads the rollicking head. He begins “S.T.F.U.” with a bass spotlight recalling Paul Chambers and then firmly anchors this post-bop tune that includes guest trumpet player Josh Evans playing with cool confidence as Orrin Evans sits this one out.

Dillard, though, gets the most opportunities to star on this record and makes the most of it. On the ballad “Love Is Near,” his large, sultry tenor is a welcome throwback to the Coleman Hawkins school of moody saxophone. On the waltzing “Community,” he blows a soprano sax with a spring in his step, injecting cheerfulness into the song. He brings out the melancholy qualities of the horn on the slow numbers “Camelot’s Lean” and “If Only,” and is wistful on the soprano on Ben Wolfe’s lone cover selection “All The Things You Are,” which is transformed simply by being slowed down.

“Chronos” stands out for its irresistibly funky gait that’s made possible by the syncopated simpatico between Wolfe and Edwards. More great interplay is found on “The Balcony” where Evans and Dillard (on tenor sax) come in together after Wolfe’s walking bass intro and solo on parallel planes.

Ben Wolfe’s Posi-Tone label debut The Whisperer is quality straight-ahead jazz because Wolfe and his crew do everything the right way. It’s little wonder why he’s a trusted collaborator and sideman for some of jazz’s biggest names.


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Richard Kamins reviews Ben Wolfe “The Whisperer”…

 For his 2013 MaxJazz CD, “From Here I See“, bassist and composer Ben Wolfeworked with a core quartet ofOrrin Evans (piano), Donald Edwards (drums) and JD Allen (saxophone) plus guest artists and a string quartet. Messrs. Evans and Edwards return on his new release, “The Whisperer” (Posi-Tone Records) while Stacy Dillard(soprano and tenor saxophones) replaces Allen.  Trumpeter Josh Evans (no relation to the pianist) is the only guest and appears on 1 track. The unique painting on the cover is the work of Colorado-based Ron Fundingsland and is titled “Sanctuary.”

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