An innovative force in contemporary jazz, Ben Wendel has made a name for himself as a skilled saxophonist, composer, and producer. Born in Vancouver, Canada, and raised in Los Angeles, Wendel’s diverse background is mirrored in his music, which marries the tradition of jazz with elements of classical, pop, and electronic music.
Wendel began his musical journey on the bassoon, with early exposure to the works of classical composers and chamber music. His attention soon shifted to the saxophone, which allowed him to express a different facet of his musical personality. Wendel’s exceptional talent on the saxophone won him a scholarship to the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he studied with renowned jazz professor Ralph Alessi.
Upon graduation, Wendel quickly became an in-demand sideman, performing with artists such as Ignacio Berroa, Antonio Sanchez, and Tigran Hamasyan. However, it was his work as a co-founder of the Grammy-nominated band Kneebody that firmly established him on the international jazz scene. Kneebody’s innovative blending of genres, coupled with their unique compositional approach, garnered critical acclaim and influenced a generation of musicians.
As a solo artist, Wendel has released several notable projects. One of his most acclaimed endeavors is “The Seasons,” a 12-part suite inspired by Tchaikovsky’s work of the same name. Originally conceived as a video series with each piece dedicated to a fellow musician, “The Seasons” was later recorded as an album, highlighting Wendel’s ability to create music that is as profound as it is accessible.
In addition to his work as a performer, Wendel is a passionate educator, sharing his knowledge and experience with the next generation of musicians. He has conducted masterclasses and workshops at institutions worldwide, and his lessons on YouTube have garnered a large online following.
Wendel’s playing is characterized by his technical prowess, melodic ingenuity, and the ability to blend the harmonic complexities of jazz and classical music with an accessible, emotive sensibility. His music resonates with a wide spectrum of listeners, proving that innovation and tradition can coexist within the framework of contemporary jazz.
As Ben Wendel continues to push boundaries, he sets a new standard for the role of the saxophone in modern music. His contributions to the world of jazz underscore his status as one of the most influential and forward-thinking voices on the saxophone today.
Page last updated 7/9/2023.