Tom Ollendorff: Open House

The British guitarist leads a trio with guest saxophonist Ben Wendel in a set combining baroque-style solo etudes with bop-derived episodes


A relative newcomer on the UK jazz scene, Tom Ollendorff is a gifted guitarist and composer. Awarded a Yamaha Scholarship for Outstanding Jazz Musicianship in 2015, he began his professional career in 2016 and has since worked with artists including alto saxophonist Geoff Simkins, fellow guitarist Dave Cliff, drummer Ari Hoenig and the EYM Trio.

Appearing internationally at concerts and festivals, Ollendorff has built a wide following that is due in part to his exceptional instrumental skill. There can be little doubt that an important factor in his popularity is his obvious awareness of the place and importance of the guitar in the history of jazz. Through this album, his playing is built upon a solid foundation of jazz sensibilities that date to earlier forms, including bop and swing.

This is not to suggest his style is dated. Far from it, in fact, as he brings to all of his performances not only his awareness of these older elements but also those of contemporary jazz. It is good to know that through his teaching at Cardiff’s Royal College of Music and Drama, some of his understanding and enthusiasm will be passed on to an even younger generation of musicians.

Joining Ollendorff on this album is tenor saxophonist and New York resident Ben Wendel. Born in Vancouver, Wendel has worked with many leading artists in several genres of contemporary music. Here, although most of the solos are by the leader, Wendel has many opportunities to display his inventiveness. Most of the music played on this date consists of Ollendorff’s originals which display his composing skill. The exceptions are Charlie Parker’s Bongo Beep, Victor Young’s My Foolish Heart and Airegin by Sonny Rollins.

The two appearances of Istanbul are very different. First, a seven-minute quick-tempo excursion has Ollendorff and Wendel taking powerful solos and drummer Marc Michel also has his moments. Second, the guitarist is gently reflective and this provides a good opportunity to fully appreciate his free-flowing improvisatory talent. Recommended, especially to fans of jazz guitar.

(2) Three Bridges; (1) Bongo Beep; (2) Passing Ships; (1) Carnival; My Foolish Heart; (2) Istanbul; Istanbul Coda; (1) Airegin; Hollywood (46.09)
(1) Ollendorff (g); Conor Chaplain (b), Marc Michel (d). London. 26, 27 November 2022. (2) add Ben Wendel (ts).
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT656