A solo album has been a dream in planning for as long as my musical memory allows. With a world filled with the most amazing performers, and as a result, the most inspiring albums, I have craved to make my own musical stamp, although in what form, I wasn’t fully sure. While this project felt like a long time in coming, it also always felt a long way away. Fast forward to March 2020 when the entire world hits the pause button and thus forces musicians, along with many others, to cancel performances for an indeterminate period moving forward. Being home, repeating the same tasks each day, and living with the essentials: our basic needs, our loved ones, our own thought worlds, and perhaps a musical instrument or other hobby if we’re lucky. Immediately I dove into the pinnacle of solo instrument repertoire, J.S. Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites (in this instance, the Fourth Cello Suite): the pinnacle of all solo instrument repertoire. Simultaneously I reacquainted myself with an old friend, Solo Improvisation No. 1 by Enrique Crespo. A beastly technical solo work, yet endlessly rewarding and freeing to shape into a new story for each performance.
Sergei Prokofiev has given arrangers an endless task of reconfiguring the intense, vulnerable, and explosively passionate ballet setting of Romeo and Juliet into a multitude of ensembles. On trombone this piece is a big bite to swallow, though the power of the composition makes it irresistible to program and, I hope, listen to. As a lover of the Russian greats, three of Alexander Scriabin’s piano etudes, arranged by Ralph Sauer, have been a favorite of mine and an unknown arrangement in the trombone world.
With these pieces spinning in my mind, it jumped out to me…at a time when we are at home for what seems like an eternity, we can so clearly see what ‘home’ means to us (something different for everyone). For me, I realized these pieces are an expression of my ‘musical home’. J.S. Bach, the grandfather of classical music so-to-say, has been the center point on which Western Classical Music is based. Crespo’s Improvisation has been a center point in my performances for many years, a piece that I feel proud to play and find new magic in each time. The passion as well as the crunch in the Russian selections is always fascinating and compelling to me and satisfies my love of being in the heart of music that’s equally bold and vulnerable at once. And last but not least, my own composition, performed by those in my ‘actual’ home and about my faith and family, was the last piece of the puzzle but the most meaningful as well. I wrote this hymn for my unborn son, and it is sung by my amazingly gifted wife, Karen. Now, it’s quite possible that little Desmond Kenzo Wendel was surprisingly born a day before recording sessions began (and 4 weeks early at that), but you can help me keep that secret from him for a little while at least!
As a recording produced amidst a covid, this album was made with minimal bodies and followed social distancing. For all of this time, perhaps trombone recitals and social distancing have gone hand in hand! *Wink wink* With that said, these people were so incredibly important in the process and I'm so thankful for each of their expertise, effort, and the care they devoted to this project!
Behind the artwork for the album were two incredibly creative and skilled artists, photographer Tyler Garnham and graphic designer Rees Morgan. They beautifully brought my visions to life and enhanced by them beyond what I could have ever hoped for!
My intention for the artwork is to portray a down-to-earth, rustic perception of classical music. Often times I feel the industry can lack approachability as we wear uniforms like tails and tuxedos and ball gowns, particularly impacting those who are brand new to classical music. When we are at home we tend to be our truest, most sincere, selves--we are just as we are. I wanted this image to appear rooted straight into the ground, as we tend to feel at home. The tattered paper edges and handwriting aim to transport your imagination to an old photo box, leading you to a dusty photograph with a memory sketched along the edges.