Ben Wolfe – The Whisperer – Posi-Tone PR8134, 60:11 ***1/2:

(Ben Wolfe – bass; Orrin Evans – piano; Donald Edwards – drums; Stacy Dillard – soprano and tenor sax; Josh Evans – trumpet track 5)

The bassist Ben Wolfe is full of musical ideas which come tumbling out in his compositional material. In his latest iteration “The Whisperer” he leads a quartet (a quintet on one track) through eleven original compositions and one cover all of which are full of intrigue and changing ideas.

Each of the band members seems fully engaged in the process, and has bought-in to the vitality and  broad vision of the composer. The numbers are intricately arranged, but do provide well-positioned solo space, primarily to pianist Orrin Evans, and reed-man Stacy Dillard.  For the most part, Wolfe appears to be content to stay out of the way, other than providing solid bass support. “Heroist” begins the proceedings with a lively statement of the theme by Dillard’s soprano sax, followed by pianist Evans’  strong solo meanderings, backing into Dillard’s high-pitched efforts on soprano sax.

On “Hat In Hand,” the band mellows out with an economical style that highlights Dillard’s soprano sax. “Camelot’s Lean” takes the same approach, again with Dillard in the forefront as he continues to demonstrate sensitivity and expressiveness. Evans is equally impressive in his harmonic expression. Another voice is added to the mix, when trumpeter Josh Evans joins the band for S.T.F.U. This is an oblique affair with trumpeter Evans and Dillard exchanging ideas that show their bold aesthetic. Wolfe’s nod towards the popular music form is with Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”. However the number is played at a melancholy pace, and loses much in translation.

The title track “The Whisperer” swings along briskly with Dillard now on tenor sax in an assertively modern vein. Evans chips in with some quirky note selection and rhythm. “If Only” wraps up the session again led by Dillard’s soprano sax. It is economical in style and construct, edging towards the sombre.

TrackList: Heroist; Hat In Hand; Community; Love Is Near; S.T.F.U.; Camelot’s Lean; Chronos; All The Things You Are; The Whisperer; Becoming Brothers; The Balcony; If Only

—Pierre Giroux