Ben Wendel

Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #5: Ben Wendel solo on “Capricornus”


The next great saxophone player we will be investigating is Ben Wendel. He is one of the top saxophone artists today.

Grammy nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel was born in Vancouver, Canada and raised in Los Angeles. Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, he has enjoyed a varied career as performer, composer, producer and most recently, conductor.  Highlights
include multiple domestic and international tours with many artists including Cuban drumming legend Ignacio Berroa, Thelonious Monk Piano Competition Winner Tigran Hamasyan, hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg and the Artist formerly known as Prince. Ben is a founding member of the Grammy nominated group Kneebody, with their debut recording on Concord Records, The Line, released in September 2013.

As a composer he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, was a winner in the 2007 International Songwriting Competition, received the 2008 and 2011 Chamber Music America “New Works Grant” and most recently was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award by the Canadian Council for the Arts. He also co-wrote the score for John Krasinski’s 2009 adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.”

Ben was honored to work with conductor Kent Nagano in producing a series of concerts for the Festpeil Plus in Munich, Germany.  Since 2008, he has produced a multi-genre performance series at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California.  More recently he was just appointed the head of their Jazz and Blues initiative, which will include producing and expanding performance opportunities for these genres in Los Angeles.  As part of this appointment, Ben helped create an artistic council with includes such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert and Luciana Souza.  Recent producer work includes the Grammy nominated album “Life Forum” for pianist Gerald Clayton on Concord Records.

Ben is a recording artist with Sunnyside Records, with two solo albums under his belt, Simple Song (2009) and Frame(2012), a duo project with French-American pianist Dan Tepfer entitled Small Constructions (2013) and a third album planned for release in 2014.

Ben is a former Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at USC and current Adjunct at the New School in NYC.  Educational outreach has been a constant in his career with over 250 masterclasses at various colleges, universities, highschools and also previous work with the LA Philharmonic Artist Program.

Ben had the honor of conducting a re-creation of “Bird With Strings” at Jazz At The Lincoln Center with guests Charles McPherson and Wes “Warm Daddy” Anderson.

Visit Ben Wendel’s website……

“Capricornus” is an intense jam in five. The melody is raucous, with complex harmony and rhythms. The first two solos are incredible, by Peralta on piano, and the great saxophonist Zane Musa on alto. Then we have the tenor solo at 4:07. It contrasts the previous playing because it is a little more chilled out, with a warm tone and a controlled aesthetic. This is the one that I love most!

A few notable passages are:

  • A major 7 arpeggio in measures: #10, 14,43-44
  • Chromaticism
    • 10-11 uses Cm, Bm, Db, C
    • 57-59
  • Use of the Messiaen mode (C D# E G Ab B): 4, 35-36, 46
  • Db pentatonic: 24, 37-38, 61-62
  • Extreme altissimo: 14-15, 32-33 (cool cliché), 41-42, 45-46, 51-53
  • Gm7b5 arpeggio: 5, 41


Download: Ben Wendel solo on Capricornus- Bb

Download:Ben Wendel solo on Capricornus-C