A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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Described as a “steadily rising talent” by the Los Angeles TimesBen Wendel is bringing a new group to The Jazz Gallery this weekend. The reedist will debut his SOMETIMES COVER PROJECT – which incorporates music by other artists that Ben has fallen in love with recently alongside original compositions – at our new home (1160 Broadway, 5th floor) this Friday and Saturday.

Ben was born in Vancouver, CA and raised in LA, and has collaborated with everyone from Ignacio Berroa to Snoop DoggDaedelus to Tigran. We’ve been watching Ben develop his own voice on the bandstand for some time now – he first appeared at The Gallery with the collectively-led outfit Kneebody in 2004, and first played here under his own name in 2009. Last year on our stage, he celebrated the release of his latest recording, Frame (Sunnyside) at The Gallery, and also debuted a co-led group with the trumpeter Ralph Alessi on our stage.

We caught up with Ben to talk about the SOMETIMES COVER PROJECT and what you can expect to hear this weekend:


Tell us about the material you’ll be performing with the SOMETIMES COVER PROJECT.
Two thirds of the material we’ll be performing consists of songs that I’ve discovered and fallen in love with over the last year or so. They all have something about them that resonates with me, whether it be the mood, lyrics or harmonic progression. I’ve taken my own writing aesthetic and applied it to these tunes – some of these arrangements will be quite different from the original material while others will stay fairly close. The remaining material will be mostly new, un-recorded originals that I’ll be trying for the first time, with the goal of recording them later this year.
What is your relationship to each of the musicians that are joining you this weekend, and what led to your decision to include each of them in the band?
I’m pretty good friends with most of the folks involved and have played with the majority of them in various settings; it goes without saying that I deeply respect the musicianship of all involved. Matt Brewer is someone I’ve known and admired for at least 10 years, but this will be the first time we will play together. I think half the battle when forming groups is understanding how the musicians will interact and sound together, and I feel very confident and excited about the two quartets that I’ve assembled.
List five albums you’re listening to these days.
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2
Moby Dick – Opera by Jake Heggie
Elvis Costello with the Brodsky Quartet – The Juliet Letters
The Best of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald
Anything else you’d like to add?
For those that are curious, we will be playing arrangements of the following tunes:
Elvis Costello:  “Poor Napolean” / “Shamed Into Love”
Fiona Apple:  “Jonathan” / “Regret”
Wye Oak:  “Doubt”
Michel Legrand:  “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life”
The Youngs:  “Choose You”