Ben Wolfe: The Filth
Ben Wolfe (bass)
No Strangers Here (MaxJazz MXJ 605)
Luis Perdomo (piano), Jesse Mills, Cyrus Beroukhim (violins), Kenji Bunch (viola), Wolfram Koessel (cello), Greg Hutchinson (drums).
Composed by Ben Wolfe.
Recorded: New York, February 2007
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
First things first. What a great name for a tune. "The Filth!" I love it!
Bassist Ben Wolfe has been on the scene for some time now. He has performed in bands led by Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis and Diana Krall, and recorded with such stalwarts as Branford Marsalis and Benny Green. But on No Strangers Here, Wolfe is the man. He is composer, arranger and orchestrator. Most of the album's cuts include a string quartet that plays along with a straight-ahead jazz quartet. This is something Wolfe says he has always wanted to do because it gives him more options when composing. The combination of string quartet and jazz quartet has indeed opened an interesting musical chapter for Wolfe and his listeners. After listening to No Strangers Here, Wolfe has every right to tell himself he told him so.
"The Filth" starts its life as a sneaky dark-humored number. The intro featuring Wolfe and drummer Hutchinson has hints of a New Orleans "funeral with music." Marsalis's sax enters slowly, playing in the same reverential but ironic vein. The string quartet acts as a solo instrument as it takes its turn. The tune's funeral-procession rhythm, just faster than a dirge, continues even as a wildly improvising Marsalis blows over its top. Perdomo throws some heavily accented piano chords into the gumbo. The strings return to give Wolfe a clean bed over which to lay a slightly sinister solo. Marsalis's slow riffs end the ceremony. I am not sure whether "The Filth" refers to "real filth" we should be sad about, or to being "filthy" good. Sometimes there really is a slim line between reality and irony. Either way, it works.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky