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Jazz Review: Ben Wendel/Dan Tepfer's 'Small Constructions'

The art of the duo makes for rewarding listening.

April 02, 2013|By Chris Barton
  • "Small Constructions" by Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer.
"Small Constructions" by Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer. (Sunnyside )

Though Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer could be considered newcomers as compared with 75-year-old saxophone master Charles Lloyd (who also recently released a duet album, "Hagar's Song," with pianist Jason Moran), they show as much restless invention on "Small Constructions."

While still a duet, the album lives up to its name with some judicious multi-tracking, allowing Wendel (co-leader of the genre-skipping jazz-rock group Kneebody) to seamlessly switch to melodica and bassoon, such as "Still Play," the opener, and "Gratitude," which expands with a quiet grace. Tepfer, who justly earned raves in 2011 for tackling and then improvising to Bach's Goldberg Variations, is as much a standout with the insistent "Nines" and the tumbling "Rygabag."

The duo also pays tribute to the classics, offering a breezy take on Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" and "Ask Me Now" as well as Handel's Variation 1 in D minor with equal, complimentary affection, proving again that even with only two voices, there are seemingly endless avenues to harmony.

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Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer

"Small Constructions"

(Sunnyside)

Three stars (out of four)

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