Ben Wolfe’s “The Whisperer” strongly shows the group aesthetic means much more to the bassist than singular satisfaction.
“I write most of my music first on piano, with the thought of who is playing, letting them be free to do what they do,” Wolfe says.
The Posi-Tone CD reunites him with longtime collaborators Orrin Evans on piano and drummer Donald Edwards.
“Playing with Orrin and Donald is like having one brain,” says Wolfe. “There’s a trust that is evident throughout the record.”
Stacey Dillard weighs in on soprano and tenor sax to express an admirable musical community.
Eleven out of twelve tracks on the disc are originals, which show Wolfe is as much of a writer as he is a player.
The opener, “Heroist,” starts with a Lee Morgan “You Go To My Head” feel, then the foursome moves it up to get to your head.
“Hat In Hand” goes hand-in-hand with a late night tryst or early morning mist, a gorgeous ballad where piano, bass and drums allow for Dillard’s soprano to open you up for a 20-question session with yourself.
“Community” is the aesthetic on which the entire recording is based. It’s a four-four exchange that allows the soul of the space, and these four, to move about with the comfort that comes wherever good friends meet.
With “S.T.F.U.,” Wolfe sets an up-tempo pace for the group. Guest trumpeter Josh Evans adds spirit when he gets out front. Dillard’s expressive soprano answers him, and together they create a unison, communal end.
The one non-original on the disc is Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are,” drenched in quietude – a whispered reminder that you need not yell to make a strong statement.
In his article “The Bass in Jazz,” bassist Bill Crow says, “The string bass has been called the heartbeat of jazz for good reason… with notes that thread through the harmony in an interesting way, bringing the music to life.”
On “The Whisperer,” Wolfe rides this thread – which over the years has connected him with Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, James Moody and many others – straight into our hearts.
The album comes out February 17th on Posi-Tone Records. He celebrates the release with the band at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem on Feb. 26.
– Gary Walker, WBGO music director