Tuesday, July 23 – 10:15pm
In 2015, Grammy nominated and award-winning saxophonist, bassoonist, composer Ben Wendel released a music-video art project entitled "The Seasons" inspired by a set of twelve piano pieces written and release each month by Tchaikovsky in 1876. Wendel’s modern take on the idea was to compose and release twelve original jazz chamber duets in video format on YouTube with modern luminaries Joshua Redman, Luciana Souza, Eric Harland, Julian Lage, and Ambrose Akinmusire, among others. As the videos garnered acclaim among social networks, the project became an unexpected word of mouth success and was featured prominently in The New York Times (Best of 2015), NPR’s All Things Considered, and the CBC.
In 2016, After viewing an expressionist painting by Lee Krasner at The Whitney Museum entitled ‘The Seasons,’ Wendel decided to expand upon the original duets project by reimagining the arrangements for a five-piece ensemble comprised of musicians and dear friends.The Seasons album was released on Motéma Music in October 2018 to critical acclaim.
Wendel has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer and producer, including tours with artists such as Ignacio Berroa, Tigran Hamasyan, Antonio Sanchez, Gerald Clayton, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Snoop Dogg and the artist formerly known as Prince. Wendel is also a founding member of the Grammy Award nominated group Kneebody. As a composer, he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, the 2008, 2011 and 2017 Chamber Music America ‘New Works Grant’ and most recently was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award and the Concept to Realization grant by the Canada Council For The Arts. He also co-wrote the score for John Krasinski’s adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.
Tuesday, July 23rd – 08:30pm
"There are good, great, and nice musical players, but then there are phenomenal instrumentalists such as Theo. I would place Theo in a class of musicians who will redirect the flow, change and alter the current of today’s New Jazz." - Donald Byrd
American born trumpeter/composer Theo Croker, is hailed as one the great promises of Black American Music (BAM). “Star People Nation” (his upcoming LP on Sony Masterworks) isn’t a sonic departure of his critically acclaimed release “Escape Velocity”, but a continuation towards a much grander musical legacy that is pushing within the realms of futuristic melody, rhythm, and vibratory enlightenment. “Star People Nation” is an experimental nativity taking listeners on a journey through a dark, cosmic, eloquent, yet masterful work to date. Serving as a sacred marker, from a visually motivated artist revealing an ability to gleam us with evolution beyond jazz familiar, “Star People Nation” is now in motion.
As the grandson of the late trumpeter Doc Cheatham, and former student of legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, trumpeter Theo Croker is an artist steeped in jazz tradition. Well-versed in the swing, bop, and modal styles of acoustic jazz, Croker’s own music reveals a love of organic funk, soul, and gooey, groove-oriented hip-hop. It’s a vital amalgam that would have pleased the forward-thinking Byrd, whose own ’70s funk-jazz albums are an obvious touchstone for Croker on his hypnotically enlightened 2016 effort Escape Velocity.
He championed this sound on his 2014 Dee Dee Bridgewater collaboration, Afro Physicist, and he pushes it to the limits on this follow-up. Taking the production reins from Bridgewater, who also appears here on the euphoric “Love from the Sun,” Croker has crafted a set of deeply spiritual, densely layered, yet beautifully uncluttered compositions that find him bringing his funky worldview into sharply illuminated focus. Croker details his point of view on the spacy opener “Raise Your Vibrations,” in which he delivers a spoken word poem saying, “Our divine earthly purpose is our own to fulfill.”