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Ben Wolfe - Unjust (Resident Arts)

1 February 2023

A bassist and composer of some twenty-five years’ standing, Ben Wolfe has attracted as much acclaim for his compositions as for his playing, with a career in chamber music alongside his jazz work. His tenth album, Unjust puts the spotlight firmly on improvisation, gathering a passel of like-minded colleagues (pianists Orrin Evans and Addison Frei, saxophonists Immanuel Wilkins and Nicole Glover, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, drummer Aaron Kimmel, vibraphonist Joel Ross) to bring his sketches to vibrant life. The first four tracks give an indication of the breadth and depth on display here: the bluesy grind of “The Heckler” (starring Wilkins’ and Payton’s growling conversation), the frenetic postbop of “Hats Off to Rebay” (which lets Wilkins off the leash), the creamy ballad “Lullaby in D” (a showcase for tight ensemble work) and the swinging hard bop of “Bob French” (featuring Glover’s soulful soloing). Wolfe and company shift back and forth between those moves, whether it’s bluesy bop or gorgeous poesy or barely tethered expression, and prove themselves expert practitioners of all of it. If you need a straight shot of pure jazz, Unjust is the highest quality stuff on the shelf.