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MP3 The Wonderland Jazz Ensemble - A Wish

Inventive original compositions performed by a cohesive quintet featuring two saxophonists.

10 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Traditional Jazz Combo, JAZZ: Modern Creative Jazz

“This debut from an exceptional five-piece jazz outfit lead by composer / saxophonist Tom Elferdink glistens with smart original songs as well as renditions of classics by Roland Kirk and Richard Evans.” John Sinkevics, The Grand Rapids Press

“What a great band!”
Lazaro Vega, Blue Lake Public Radio

The unusual line-up of two “reed men” with a rhythm section is just one of the characteristics that give The Wonderland Jazz Ensemble its unique sound. On their first recording, A Wish, composer/saxophonist Tom Elferdink and the ensemble use combinations of various saxophones and flute to create different musical moods and textures.

Like facets of a prism, each tune on A Wish has a hue, groove and vibration of its own, and yet taken together, they reveal a singular musical vision. That vision harks back to subversive jazz masters like Roland Kirk and Sun Ra, both of whom are saluted here. Moreover, such a sense of jazz history marks a refreshing change from the buttoned-down neoclassicism of today’s young-jazzmen-in-suits. Though Kirk and Ra have been relegated to the margins of the jazz canon, it is precisely their kind of musicality—with its daring eclecticism, shocking textures and surreal humor—that is most sorely missed on today’s jazz scene. Moreover, there’s a Whitmanesque spirituality in this kind of catholic (small c) taste, a point beautifully illustrated by the medley which combines the rootsy Baptist hymn “Down to the River to Pray” with Sun Ra’s hard bop blues fantasia “Lullaby of Forrealville.” When musicians forge extraordinary links like this, it is as if they open the possibilities of living a bit more for all of us. Elferdink’s own compositions are similarly adventurous and inquisitive, their impressionistic chords punctuating sharp melodies like musical question marks. This dialogic quality is highlighted in the albums’ centerpiece—“Think Back,” “Walk Back,” “Talk Back”—a suite which moves through introspective lyricism, film noir blues, Zappaesque stop-time and elegant ensemble swing to meditate on a poignant, melancholy theme. And finally, the word “ensemble” cannot be overemphasized here. Elferdink’s Wonderland colleagues—saxophonist Ken Morgan, pianist Eric Thorne, bassist Jeff Beavan and drummer Mike Van Lente—play with extraordinary taste and drive, making every note count. If you’re a fan of bold jazz, inventive artistry or genuine musical interplay, then A Wish is simply a must.

TOM ELFERDINK – Saxophones/Flute
Honed in the nightclubs and recording studios of Chicago, Tom’s style is rooted in the jazz and blues of that great city. He is a unique composer and arranger as is evidenced by The Wonderland Jazz Ensembles repertoire, which contains many of his original tunes and scores. He has performed and/or recorded with some of the Windy City’s greatest including Sunnyland Slim, Eddie C. Campbell, Ray Bailey, The Art Thieves, and Ralph Covert and the Bad Examples.

KEN MORGAN – Saxophones/Flute
The Detroit News has called Ken’s Live at Chaps on Main recording “one of the top eight jazz releases of the year” and fans and critics alike have warmly received his latest CD, Gently with My Heart. A versatile instrumentalist, he skillfully weaves the varied sounds of the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones as well as the flute into the group’s musical tapestry. Ken has performed with many legendary musicians including Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, Pearl Bailey and Ira Sullivan.

With sophistication and unerring swing, Eric’s playing is the harmonic centerpiece of the ensemble. Whether exploring a new composition or interpreting a well-known standard, his singular style is unmistakable. A favorite of West Michigan jazz fans, Eric has performed in DeVos Hall, opened for the Count Basie Orchestra, and accompanied the likes of Bill Sears, Sunny Wilkerson, and Rob Smith.

Anchoring the rhythm section, Jeff’s unshakable sense of time and melodic inventiveness gives the band a solid foundation on which to build. Among the many highlights of his career, Jeff points to his longtime association with Grand Rapids piano legend Eddie Russ as one of the most rewarding. He has also performed and/or recorded with numerous other musical stars including Claudia Schmidt, Hal Galper, Ira Sullivan, Bob Hope, The Grand Rapids Symphony and The Fifth Dimension.

The other half of the rhythm foundation, Mike is always right on time. His long career as a performer and educator have given him the opportunity to play with a wide variety of jazz and popular artists including Clark Terry, Chris Vadala, Rick Margitza, Claudio Roditi, Joan Baez and many others. He is currently a member of the faculty at Hope College.

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