Signal Quartet:
The Music of Ben Wolkins

Congratulations to trumpeter/flugelhornist Ben Wolkins, guitarist Ian Blunden, bassist Eric Nachtrab, and drummer Sean Perlmutter — collectively identified as The Signal Quartet — on the release of Second Exploration: The Music of Ben Wolkins (Spiritual Slop Records). It is a rewarding listening experience from start to finish. I can only imagine how they feel — but this listener feels it and encourages you to join me. Perlmutter sent a note with the disc, explaining it as “slightly left-of-center acoustic jazz.”

Veer to the left for “Fore!” with swaggering blues tinges even though the melody and rhythm aren’t based on blues changes or rhythms. It is friendly and beckoning. “C.O.D.” has a question-and-answer scenario although the answers will surprise. The brisk and entertaining dialogue between the guitar-bass-drum trio keeps you pondering. “If You Knew Her” is fleet, far-reaching and illustrative of a complex personality. Cascades of bright notes spill with space between thanks to Perlmutter’s imaginative drum fills. It is music for musician and listener. If any song on Second Exploration is an example of the foursome’s empathetic communication, it is “Nothing Missing.” They do not miss a comment, change, surprise, or statement from bandmates.

The Worker Bee” follows with a hypnotic bass ostinato intro. Nachtrab understands how the figure lays groundwork for improvisation and song strains to come. Bright, resonant bell-tones emanate from Wolkins’ trumpet. This is meandering, and exploratory not unlike a bee seeking nectar and pollen in new spring, but not without cause and destination. The ballad on Second Exploration, “Lavandula Hugs,” is dreamy, tender, thoughtful, comforting, and gentle without bravado yet a bravura performance of trumpet technique and tempered passion. “Slow Brew” is a great title for this number building in intensity, percolating with stream-of-consciousness conversation coming to an inspirational conclusion. “Second Exploration,” the title track, opens with a compelling drum solo. It is hurling, bustling, challenging, and exhilarating acoustic jazz for 2023 and beyond. Join the Signal Quartet in the exploration. Add Second Exploration: The Music of Ben Wolkins on Spiritual Slop Records to your collection.