I would imagine many bass players feel like the underdogs of the band. It’s the instrument you normally have to struggle the most to hear. He’s not generally the frontline or headline cat and he doesn’t get a whole lot of solos and when he does solo, the unknowing “tune out.”
A good bass player is usually the MVP of a band. When the bassist is not playing, there’s often a big hole, unless there’s some effect that’s being pursued. When you think of the great Jazz bands in history, it’s doubtful you could fathom Ahmad without Israel Crosby, Miles without PC or Ron, Cannon without Sam Jones, Trane without Jimmy Garrison, O.P. without Ray and so on.
Ben Wolfe has what I consider to be a true bass sound: it’s warm, full and fuzzy – like a big ol’ grizzly bear. Even the look of the bass resembles something ursidaen. (Totally Googled that.) He is certainly a valuable asset to a rhythm section. His contribution is not just musical; the knowledge and spirit he brings to the proceedings is invaluable. When you’re on the bandstand with him, you can see that he wants to be there. There is little worse than a musician on the bandstand “phoning it in” because he either doesn’t have his head in the game, doesn’t feel like “giving it up” or he doesn’t like the playing of somebody else on the bandstand. (Those cats can get stuffed.)
It’s no surprise that Ben is such a prolific composer; his bass lines flow like well-written compositions and not just notes that fit under chords. No doubt, it’s his penchant for the pencil that enhances his ability to support a band from moment to masterful moment.
Off the bandstand, Big Ben is equally as intense; never at a loss for conversation, his views and observations on music are always intriguing and sometimes controversial, but always insightful. This guy is a proud, bona fide Jazz musician and he sees not a damn thing wrong with it.