Ben Schwendener

Road Trips

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Keyboardist Ben Schwendener is a New England area artist who seems comfortable performing within a variety of frameworks. His 2002 duet piano outing with Marc Rossi, titled "Living Geometry," features artfully rendered harmonic forays, drawing upon composer George Russell's infamous Lydian Chromatic Concepts. Here, Schwendener leads an electric-acoustic quintet that skirts the borders of jazz fusion and modern jazz. In fact, this outing signifies one of those rare entities where synths and thrashing electric guitar lines coalesce with avant-garde-type soloing atop sturdy backbeats. Schwendener uses an acoustic piano to augment his array of electronic keyboards, while noted modern jazz saxophonist Bhob Rainey renders either warmly melodic choruses or heated soloing forays consisting of jagged lines amid a multitude of abstracts. Guitarist Gregg Ramsey explores Hendrix-like concepts, yet also tempers the pace when required. However, Schwendener's compositions bridge the gap between relatively loud, fusion-type extravaganzas or moody contemporary jazz grooves. He displays a flair for melody whether soloing or executing an ostinato-based melody. Through it all, the musicians' discerning excursions and the leader's articulately crafted compositions provide the winning formula. Recommended.

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