May 30th, 2011

Gil Marsh cover

The Ben Wolfe Quartet

Ben WolfeI was planning to write a review about the Ben Wolfe Quartet, a jazz ensemble I saw on Friday at Firehouse 12 in New Haven. But then I thought, I don’t have the vocabulary.

I loved the music. So I began reading up about Ben Wolfe and learned that he plays hard bop jazz—a category I didn’t know existed, although it turns out that I had heard that kind of jazz often enough. How come I didn’t know what it was called? And it made me think that there are probably a whole bunch of people who don’t know what it’s called.

Like most listeners, I listen to music without a music education. Oh I’ve heard plenty of music in my life, but I haven’t taken any classes, or spent much time reading about music, or collected specifically in a genre, or played much more than beginner tunes on an instrument. I listen to what I can get—country, blues, classical, punk, rock, folk, Irish, pop, jazz, reggae, Indian, almost anything around. I don’t like it all, but I like a lot of it and at least some in all genres.

Marcus StricklandI’m always baffled when someone tells me with authority that a particular kind of music sucks. If a tune moves me, or a performer makes me listen, or the music touches something inside me that makes me want to hear it again, what difference does it make that it’s Stravinsky or the Pogues?

It’s music. In the case of the Ben Wolfe Quartet, it’s jazz. It has a beat. It’s ensemble playing with exciting solos. It’s talented, honed musicians showing virtuosity, beautiful tone, and a love of the music they’re sharing.

The Ben Wolfe Quartet made me smile for their entire set. I grooved, the whole time. I didn’t want them to stop. When Wolfe sounded like two bass players playing at once, or Marcus Strickland’s saxophone made me feel like I was floating, I was awed. I walked away from the evening wanting to hear them again. As far as I’m concerned, that’s good music, whatever it's called.