Small Constructions, a 2013 release from saxophonist Ben Wendel and pianist Dan Tepfer, isn’t your typical duo album. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times for its “restless invention,” Small Constructions was carefully constructed through a series of overdubs. Wendel, who is also known for his work with the hard-hitting jazz-rock collective Kneebody, plays three kinds of saxes and a bassoon on the record, while Tepfer, versed in keyboard language from Monk to the Goldberg Variations, intertwines layers of piano, Fender Rhodes, and melodica.
In a live setting, the duo have fewer tools at their immediate disposal. But for Wendel and Tepfer, two voices are all that is necessary. As seen in this video from WBGO, they can take any tune, like Lennie Tristano’s “Line Up,” and put a unique spin on it, full of unexpected detours and influenced by pop and classical as much as jazz.
Both Wendel and Tepfer grew up on classical music, which Wendel believes contributes to their connection: “We have a shared aesthetic sensibility from this,” he says, “extending from our choice of tunes to the way we improvise together, finishing each other’s sentences. I guess you could say that we’re kindred musical spirits.”
Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer with Woodwind Quartet and Smartphones perform at The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, December 20th and 21st. The performance will feature Ben Wendel on saxophone, Dan Tepfer on piano, Joshua Rubin on clarinet, Gareth Flowers on trumpet, and Rebekah Heller and Adrian Morejon on bassoon. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m., $20 general admission and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here.