Grammy-nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel was born in Vancouver, Canada and raised in Los Angeles. Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, he has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer and producer. Highlights include multiple domestic and international tours with artists such as Ignacio Berroa, Tigran Hamasyan, Antonio Sanchez, Gerald Clayton, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Snoop Dogg and Prince. Ben is a founding member of the Grammy nominated group Kneebody, currently signed with Concord Records and Brainfeeder Music.
His critically acclaimed music video project The Seasons, inspired by Tchaikovsky’s works of the same name, was released throughout 2015 and included guests such as Joshua Redman, Jeff Ballard, Mark Turner, Julian Lage, Ambrose Akinmusire and more. It was listed as one of the best releases of 2015 by the NY Times. In 2018, Wendel revamped, recorded and released The Seasons as an album. Read the JazzTimes review here.
As a composer, he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, the 2008 and 2011 Chamber Music America “New Works Grant” and most recently was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award by the Canada Council For The Arts. He also co-wrote the score for John Krasinski’s adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.”
He has worked with conductor Kent Nagano in producing a series of concerts for the Festspiel Plus in Munich, Germany. From 2008 to 2015, he produced a multi-genre performance series at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. During that time he was appointed the head of their Jazz and Blues initiative, which included producing and expanding performance opportunities for these genres in Los Angeles. As part of this appointment, Ben helped to create an artistic council which included such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert and Luciana Souza. Ben’s recent producer work includes the Grammy nominated album “Life Forum” for pianist Gerald Clayton on Concord Records.
Ben has recorded for Sunnyside Records, Motéma Music, Concord Records and Brainfeeder, with four solo albums under his belt, Simple Song (2009), Frame (2012), What We Bring (2016) and The Seasons (2018), a duo project with French-American pianist Dan Tepfer entitled Small Constructions (2013) and multiple Kneebody albums.
Ben is a former Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at USC and a current Adjunct at the New School in NYC. Educational outreach has been a constant in his career with over 250 masterclasses at various colleges, universities, high-schools and also previous work with the LA Philharmonic Artist Program.
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Jazz Review: Ben Wendel/Dan Tepfer’s ‘Small Constructions’ – LA Times Originally Published