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Ben Wolfe: From Here I See

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If you were to initially mistake From Here I See for a leaderless small-combo session with strings, chances are Ben Wolfe would be pleased. The bassist-composer isn’t merely in self-effacing form on this outing-he puts into play a group of top-flight musicians who adroitly and discreetly follow suit. As Branford Marsalis comments in his accompanying liner notes, “… there is no overplaying … no massive technical displays of prowess or excessively long solos on the entire recording. The single focus seems to be on serving the melody.”

Yes, the melodies-that’s where the album’s chief allure resides. Though Wolfe solos sparingly, his imprint here is evident throughout the album’s dozen selections-tunes that may or may not have been written with precisely this lineup in mind. It’s hard to imagine, however, Wolfe wishing for a more striking take on his gorgeous ballad “Angela,” a melody softly illuminated and embellished by guitarist Russell Malone, or a more appealing performance of the waltzing “Who’s Lily?,” a splendid showcase for Malone, pianist Orrin Evans and its composer.

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