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Ben Wendel: Frame

Frame should be a mess. It’s an eclectic zigzag of contemporary styles, played in configurations ranging from duo to full sextet, with multireedist (but primarily tenor saxophonist) Ben Wendel rotating between axes and keyboards rotating between players (Gerald Clayton and Tigran Hamasyan on piano, Adam Benjamin on Rhodes). But it all holds brilliantly together through the sheer force of Wendel’s personality. Indeed, there’s little other common ground to the chopsy fusion of “Frame,” the sax-trio funk of “Jean and Renata” and the delicate piano/tenor duet “Con Alma.”

Wendel’s hard but rich saxophone sound and curt, conversational phrasing contribute momentum to rocker “Blocks” (on which he plays soprano) and hard-swinging “Clayland,” and his easy, languorous lyricism adds romance to the slow closer, “Julia.” His bassoon-mostly in overdubbed accompaniment, but as the lead on the minimalist “Backbou”-is more staccato but no less effective thanks to his lush tone. (Wendel also comps himself with melodica on several tunes.)

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