Australian-born New York based pianist and composer Ben Winkelman's sixth album Heartbeat will be released on September 15th via OA2 Records. He is accompanied by very high quality musicians on Heartbeat. Israeli-born New York based fusion jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman, whose lyrical playing style I love, is on guitar, New Zealand-born master bassist Matt Penman is on double bass and Obed Calvaire, known for his work with Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Dave Holland, Monty Alexander, Sean Jones, Yosvany Terry and Mike Stern, is on drums.
Winkelman's state of mind was in a paradox when he was composing this album. Winkelman composed the tracks at a time of hope and despair. As the pianist explains, the set is inspired by the anticipation of fatherhood and the sense of crisis and isolation at the beginning of the pandemic.
The album, which was written during the chaotic days of uncertainty dictated by the Covid pandemic, also coincided with a period of hope and excitement as Winkelman awaited the birth of their first child. However, the album does not have an unstable and undefined atmosphere of negativity arising from these two contrasting situations. On the contrary, the overall positive atmosphere of the album shows that hope outweighs despair.
Of the 9 tracks on the album, 4 are piano trios and 5 are quartets with guitar accompaniment. He started to compose for all of them is generally a piano trio. However, in some of the pieces, they were upgraded to quartet form to expand the expressions even more. There are lyrical compositions with elegant lines as well as complex compositions. The melodic lines are kept strong and the group interaction is fluid, often opening up spaces for rhythmic journeys of discovery.
The first track "Praise", as the title suggests, is a contemporary interpretation of gospel music. After a long intro section performed as a group, we listen to the solo parts of the piano and guitar. The dynamic piece is bright and full-bodied, like the showcase of the whole album. At the end of the track we hear a strong drum solo behind the piano with frequent repetitions.
The second track on the album "Fort Tilden" takes its name from the name of a beach in southern Queens. Inspired by Brazilian music, the piece is in a static form, and the guitar and bass performances as well as the osinato in the intro played by Rhodes are noteworthy. My favorite part of the track was Penman's deep bass solo played with his unique dark wood tone.
Like most of the albums made during the pandemic, there is a track called "Isolation" on the album. In the 12-bar track, we hear their wide solo spaces of all the band members, especially Winkelman. Calvaire's solo drumming, which alternates between rhythmic and bodied, gives the track a very powerful atmosphere.
I liked Winkelman's sixth album Heartbeat, because it goes beyond from his previous albums in terms of concept and richness of layers, and captures a more contemporary and dynamic atmosphere. I will be following him to continue the success he achieved in Heartbeat in his future albums.