Signal Quartet is a collective musical ensemble based in Southeast Michigan consisting of Ben Wolkins on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Ian Blunden on Guitar, Eric Nachtrab on Bass and Sean Perlmutter on Drums. The band began to take shape in summer 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when, out of a dire need for music and human connection, Perlmutter and Nachtrab would get together with various configurations of musicians to play music with no agenda, just for the joy of it on the back deck of Nachtrab's Ann Arbor home. A few low-key trio gigs with guitarist Blunden (a former Wayne State University Classmate of Perlmutter) moved the ensemble closer to formation, and the lineup was solidified when Wolkins (a longtime friend of Nachtrab's from their time in the Toledo Jazz Scene) began to make appearances at the back deck sessions.
The group began to build a repertoire first by bringing in relatively obscure pieces by composers such as Thelonious Monk, Chris Speed, Carla Bley, and Bill McHenry and eventually evolved to focus almost entirely on original music composed by members of the ensemble. The material written for the band covers a wide swath of musical terrain, but each piece has a sense of simplicity, a strong identity and serves as a springboard for the musicians' empathetic improvisations. Signal Quartet's approach to music is one of “letting it all in”; following the thread of the music where it leads, regardless of stylistic constraints; embracing the jazz tradition while refusing to shave off or smooth over any of its eccentricities or irregularities.
The band's self-titled debut - consisting mostly of pieces by Nachtrab - was released in August of 2022, and the release was celebrated with a performance at the Detroit Jazz Festival the following Month. The Album continues to receive radio play around Michigan and beyond.
Their sophomore effort, 2nd Exploration: The Music of Ben Wolkins, will be released in the spring of 2023 and will be supported by further radio play as well a tour.
This Detroit based small ensemble performs original modal mainstream jazz at times, often edgy, and always cohesive. They mix it up with some jazz rock fusion, thoughtful, calmer compositions, and music parallel to the ECM sound within an imagined or reimagined Kenny Wheeler-John Abercrombie concept. A true co-op quartet, Eric Nachtrab plays bass and is upfront with the fine trumpeter Ben Wolkins. Guitarist Ian Blunden provides scintillating leads and accents, while drummer Sean Perlmutter forcefully holds down his rhythmic end. The result is an introspective or bold approach that is never overbearing, always challenging, and a cut above.
-Michael G. Nastos; Hot House Magazine/NYC, Paradiso Dei Musicisti, Down Beat Magazine, WCBN 88.3 FM, wcbn.org-Ann Arbor, Mi., Arts Fuse, Jazz Messenger and El Intruso Music Polls