Hello- thanks for stopping by Bennett Paster.com. Life and music continue to bring many blessings and I am thankful to be able to sustain myself creatively during these difficult economic times. Below I recount a few highlights past and some news about upcoming recordings and projects.
New CD: Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful
I'm delighted and proud to announce the release of my new CD Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful. The disc is a broad-based modern jazz recording showcasing my latest compositions and arrangements for jazz quintet and sextet. Joined by six of my absolute favorite instrumentalists, we effortlessly integrate swing with Latin and Brazilian rhythms to forge a contemporary, accessible style. Recorded one sweltering July day in Brooklyn after a series of monthly performances at Greenwich Village music club The 55 Bar, the album vividly captures snapshots in our development. Our group interplay and unwavering melodicism render a rich, eminently listenable music that will draw you in and bring you along on our journey.
Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful
features: Joel Frahm (tnr), Tim Armacost (tnr/sop), Alex Pope Norris (tpt), Bennett Paster (pno/comp), Gregory Ryan (bass), Willard B. Dyson Jr. (drms) with special guest Gilad (perc).
To me, writing and playing music has always been a mysterious and intuitive process. I rarely approach it with my intellect leading the way. Over time I have learned to tap into my inner voice, to trust it and to let it flow. I’m constantly striving to make my music simple, more essential; to strip away unnecessary artifice and adornment. Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful is a celebration of those efforts. “The Beautiful” to which the title refers isn’t traditional aesthetic beauty, rather it’s honest musical expression from within. This expression forms the core of my sound. It incorporates a wide spectrum of emotions using sonic textures and colors which create a picture of life through music.
Life in general and music in particular seem to be becoming ever more complicated. Conversely, I’m trying to find the shortest distance between musical inspiration and it’s expression. The improvisational process in jazz has long sought to minimize that disconnect. But the compositional process is similar to making a sculpture, refining an idea little by little until it’s perfect. Lately, I’ve been trying to find a way to preserve the spontaneity of improvisation in my compositions. Many of the songs in this collection were composed away from the piano using only a pencil and staff paper, letting my inner melodic sense be my compass. These particular songs come from my heart and mind, not the familiar pathways that my fingers comfortably tread when I compose at a keyboard. In the others that I did discover at the piano, I’ve sought to preserve the initial inspiration at the genesis of the idea.
The exceptional musicians on this recording have helped bring these ideas and this music to life. They animated the static ideas from paper into joyous noise, effortlessly balancing the written and the free elements in each song. I’m thankful to them all for their contributions to this project and to you, the listener for joining us on this journey in pursuit of this elusive beauty. Thanks for listening!
Bennett Paster, Brooklyn, NY July 2012
You can preview and order the album at:
CD Baby and iTunes and anywhere fine music is sold online.
Fall 2011 News Update
Wow- Life, family and work have kept me busy since I last updated my news page. So many wonderful things have transpired: I’ve been busy performing, recording, producing, MD’ing, engineering and doing some touring. Here’s a selection of some highlights from the last year.
I’ve been doing semi-monthly performances with my two groups, the acoustic Bennett Paster Group and my electric Funktet at NYC’s legendary 55 Bar. These performances, aside from being fun, have paved the way for a new BP Group recording which we captured one long, steamy-hot day this past July at my studio, Benny’s Wash n’ Dry. I’m hoping to release the recording sometime this Winter. Featuring Joel Frahm, Tim Armacost, Gregory Ryan, Willard Dyson and Gilad, it’ll be my first new release sine 2008 and I’m really excited to share the music with you. I’m hoping to get the Funktet into the studio in 2012.
In addition to playing with my groups, I’ve also been playing with the Gregory Ryan Trio, Anders Holst, Milton, Luca Benedetti’s Thermionics and KJ Denhert, among others. I’ve also acted as arranger, Musical Director and pianist for two great young singers- Alix Paige and Kiara Duran.
In July and August, I returned to the amazing Stanford Jazz Workshop to teach in their jazz camp and adult jazz residency and to perform in their prestigious festival. This year I performed in shows with blues-master Robben Ford, did a tribute to Electric Miles Davis featuring Wallace Rooney & Ndugu Chancler and joined the fun as part of Victor Lin’s “Music of the Beatles” concert. Plus, we had two wonderful weeks teaching jazz and creative improvisation with the young jazz stars of tomorrow. Being with my “summer family” at the SJW always inspires me and renews my love for music- this year was no exception.
Robben Ford and BP Rocking at Stanford Jazz Festival
(photo courtesy of Judy Castaillac)
During October and early November 2011 I’ll be back on the road with Paul Beaudry and Pathways as part of the prestigious US State Dept./Jazz at Lincoln Center Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program. We'll be traveling to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh and India to share our music and to engage in cultural exchange. (scroll down several news items for more info on this tour).
8 hands & 3 pianos: Peter Stoltzman, BP, Victor Lin & Taylor Eigsti play "Lady Madonna" at Stanford Jazz Festival
(photo courtesy of Judy Castaillic)
Studio News: Benny´s Wash n´ Dry
Things have been busy in my Studio Benny’s Wash n’ Dry since our re-opening after our 2009 renovation. I’m delighted to invite you to visit our new website which is chock full of info about the studio space, our gear and clients and also features many sound samples which show the diversity and quality of our work. Please check it out and email if you have any questions or to set up an appointment to visit the studio if you’d like.
The Steinway B piano has had additional action work by Mike Miccio and was recently voiced by Alex Colwell- it’s sounding more dynamic and playing more easily than ever. Tasty! We recently upgraded our DAW software to most recent versions of Pro Tools (PT9) and Logic Studio (Logic Pro 9). And, my old friend, saxophonist and illustrator John McKenna designed our official studio logo. I hope you like it!
New Releases featuring me as a keyboardist:
I play on a lot of recordings as a sideman- here are some recent ones I’m particularly proud of:
Steve Winwood- remake of Spanish Dancer produced by Ben Wisch
(One of my favorite producers and mixers, Ben Wisch produced this re-make of the Winwood classic originally from Arc of the Diver for release on the new Steve Winwood career retrospective box set. It’s so cool to be able to say “I played organ on a Steve Winwood recording,” considering that he’s a legendary rock organist himself…)
Joe Clausell Hammock House Afro Carribe on Fania records
(Producer Joe Clausell is a legend in the world of remixing. We’ve worked together for years and I’ve played on likely over 100 tracks for him, many uncredited, but this project is special. He took a handful of classic 60s and 70s salsa tunes from the important NYC label Fania and remixed them in his own personal world-music meets house style. I play piano and synths on much of the album and Joe and I even co-composed one new tune with soulful singer Jai Veda. I’m extremely proud of my work on this record- highly recommended.)
For producer Ken Rich: Richard Perso: In the Shadows; Frank Ippolito (for future release)
For producer Christian Cassan: Ed Littman; Bruno Oro: Tempus Fugit
For producer Jeff Eyrich: Lipbone Redding: Unbroken
Jesper Dupont Fly High
Michael Veal’s Armillary Sphere: Anyscape (Nektonic NEKCD002)
Michael Veal & Aqua Ife: Volume 1 (Nektonic NEKCD001)
Music and the Brain (a piano education progran) MATB- Volume 1
Brother Joscephus (Self Titled CD)
Paul Beaudry and Pathways (Divine Spirit DSR 1001)
Joshua Shneider’s Easy Bake Orchestra (recorded at Systems Two) (for future release)
Paul Beaudry and Pathways: Americas (Soundkeeper Recordings Feb 2012)
Trevor Holder (for future release)
John McConnell (for future release)
For producer Thor Madsen “Train to the City” for Lemon
Plus tracks for Greg Kavna, Horace Scott, Jon Szenics and more.
Clients at Benny’s Wash n’ Dry
Aside from my diverse personal projects, other clients' work at the Wash n’ Dry continues to span styles and genres from solo piano to jazz trio, from classical flute and ‘cello to a “Heart” cover band, from singer-songwriter to educational materials and musical theater pieces. One thing I love about running a studio- every day is different, it’s never the same music twice- that keeps it fresh and exciting for me. Recent clients include:
Francesco DiLenge and the C.O.D. Trio featuring John Pattituci, John Thomas, Issa Cabrera, Josh Shneider & Lucy Woodward, Sheryl Bailey, Christian Lohr, Isabel Rose, Lynn Gruenwald, Nathan Peck & Brian Fishler, Michael Bellar, Daniel Kelly & David Gonzalez, Dahveed Behroozi, Adam Cote, Doug Johnson, Mike Beck, Michelle Amador, Mark Cocheo, Issac Darche, Horace Scott, James Rich, Greg Kavna, Drew Paralic, Sara Lewis, soundtrack for Russ Speigel, Jon Szenics, Susan Innamorito, All Heart and more.
Traveling the Rhythm Road: Paul Beaudry & Pathways Tour 2010 & 2011
Paul Beaudry, Bennett Paster, Tony Jefferson & Tim Armacost
In 2006 I was privileged to travel and perform with my band Grupo Yanqui on behalf of the US Dept. of State as part of their Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program, administered by Jazz at Lincoln Center. From Sept 29 until Oct 23, 2010 I've enjoyed that honor again, this time as part of a wonderful new band: Paul Beaudry & Pathways. The band features Paul Beaudry (bass/vox), Tim Armacost (tenor &soprano sax/alto flute), Bennett Paster (piano or keyboard) and Tony Jefferson (drums/vox).
In September and October 2010 we visited Trinidad, Suriname, Nicaragua and Honduras, playing instrumental and vocal jazz and original music, teaching masterclasses and doing cultural exchange. Like the last tour, this one was a transformative experience for me, both personally and musically. For a tour diary and dispatches from our travels, please visit my blog: Further Ruminations from the Road.
We're also excited to have been selected to participate in the 2011 Rhythm Road program. Throughout October and into early November we'll be traveling to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh and India to share our music and to engage in cultural exchange.
Our debut self-titled recording was released in 2010. For more information, or to hear some of it, visit: www.myspace.com/paulbeaudry or http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/PaulBeaudry.
And, in May 2011, we recorded our followup album for audiophile label Soundkeeper Recordings. Entitled "Americas," the date features a collection of traditional and folk music from 9 different countries in North, Central and South America, plus the Caribbean. We recorded live to 2-tracks in super-hi resolution audio quality and the album will be released both as a standard CD and as DVD-audio (96/24) and additionally as full-resolution wav files at 96K and 192K, all with no compression or limiting. The recording days were amazingly fun- this promises to be a great record. The label plans to release the album in February, 2012.
Eliot Paster Arrives!
My wife Eleanor and I are proud to announce the arrival of our first child, Eliot Saylor Paster in March 2009. I like to jokingly refer to him as my “new release” this year. (He’s not available on itunes music store… yet.) He’s a sweet, good-natured fellow and we are enjoying every minute with the little redhead.
Studio News: Major Renovations at Benny´s Wash n´ Dry!
I am excited to announce the re-opening of my studio, Benny’s Wash n’ Dry after major renovations. Clients are loving the new layout, improved lighting with additional windows and larger workspace. Importantly, we added a properly-floated, totally isolated 6x8’ sound-booth, big enough for bass, percussion, several vocalists or even a small drumset. We re-designed the performance and mixing areas to maximize workspace. Acoustic consultant Joe Salvatto designed the iso-booth and re-applied the acoustic treatment throughout the studio. The 6’10” Steinway B sounds incredible opening into the expanded space, the Hammond and Leslie were tweaked to perfection (by Jeremy Price at JP Organ Service) and the Wurlitzers, Hohner Clavinet and MiniMoog are ready to record. I upgraded my computer to a new MacPro 8-core system running ProTools 8 with converters by Lynx (no Digi hardware!). The new room sounds better than ever and the additional workspace, isolation and lighting combined with the same relaxed, creative vibe and intuitive, musical engineer (me) make the Wash n’ Dry a great place to record small ensemble live tracks, do keyboard overdubs or produce your next recording. If you’re interested in working here, please email for details, including a complete gear list.
Recording and Production News
Recent clients to the studio have included drummer/composer Rob Garcia’s new quartet, who recorded their brand-new CD Perennial for Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records in August; promising young singer/actress Alix Paige recorded her new demo here, produced by up-and-coming arranger/pianist Alex Collins; Jazz bassist John Lang and guitarist Lee Metcalf recorded a nice quartet date. Aussie keyboardist Barney McAll just recorded Hammond tracks for singer/songwriter Greta Gertler’s forthcoming release. I also did some re-mixing for the new Citizen’s EP for my long-time friend, guitarist Thom Loubet. Shredding guitarist/composer Sheryl Bailey will be recording her new quartet in November, as will jazzers Mark Cocheo and Isaac Darche.
Amazing artists have been coming to the Wash n’ Dry or emailing files from around the city (and around the world), asking me to add my tasty vintage-keyboard and piano flavor to their tracks. Recently, I've performed on tracks for Amy Lennard, Teddy Goldstein, Jesper Dupont, Alec Berlin, Frank Ippolito, Ed Littman and Jon Szenics, among others. If you’d like me to play on or produce your music, please don’t hesitate to ask. I love to help artists achieve and expand their artistic vision. As always my motto remains “serve the song.”
I also recorded some new trio and quintet music at the wonderful Excello Recording in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (They were kind enough to play host to my Steinway and Hammond during my studio renovations.) I played piano, wurli and organ, and the lineup included Gregory Ryan on acoustic and electric bass, Joel Rosenblatt on drums, plus saxophonist Kenny Brooks and guitarist Sean Moran. We recorded a crop of my newer compositions plus Sam River’s “Beatrice,” Stevie Wonder’s “Visions” and Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” I’m working on limited overdubs and mixing some of the tracks now and considering my release options… Visit the listen page for some previews as they become available.
Though often bleary-eyed from the sleepless nights that a new baby brings, I did manage to slip away from Brooklyn to to some live performances with singer/songwriter/guitar-master KJ Denhert’s band. We returned for our 4th consecutive summer for a 10-day residency at the Umbria Jazz ’09 in Perugia, Italy. We performed daily for crowds as large as 1000 people, supported our amazing live CD “Dal Vivo a Umbria Jazz,” (which we recorded at their Winter ’07 festival) and generally enjoyed the fantastic food, warm hospitality and deep hang that Italy and Umbria Jazz are famous for. We also performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, Town Hall Theatre in Middlebury Vermont, Cape Cod Jazz Festival and we continued our bi-weekly residency at NYC’s legendary speakeasy 55 Bar.
In addition, I continued to perform trio gigs with Gregory Ryan and a cavalcade of swinging drummers around NYC, and played a great quartet date with Paster, Ryan, Hall and Norris at the Jazz Underground’s terrific village free jazz series. For only the second time since 1984, I took summer ’09 off from teaching at Stanford Jazz Workshop, but I plan to return for the ’10 season.
Great reviews have continued to trickle in for Grupo Yanqui’s latest release “Grupo Yanqui Rides Again.” Be sure to visit grupoyanqui.com to read the latest reviews and to hear music from both CDs. Plans are in the works to get the band back on the bandstand sometime in early 2010.
Grupo Yanqui Rides Again!
Gregory Ryan and I are proud to present present Grupo Yanqui Rides Again, the long-awaited sophmore CD from our Latin/world/jazz sextet. The band’s repertoire skillfully balances our Afro-Cuban-, Brazilian-, and American-influenced compositions, with Latin-tinged arrangements of standard gems. Grupo Yanqui defies simple classification – it's Latin jazz; it's world groove; it's energetic music that forges the strengths of diverse individuals into an exciting, distinctly New York sound.
Along with me on acoustic piano and Gregory Ryan on electric and acoustic basses, this recording features Chris Cheek, tenor and alto saxophone; Alex Norris, trumpet; Keith Hall drums; and Gilad, percussion.
This exciting recording, released by Miles High Records , was released in stores on May 20th. It's also available at iTunes Store, amazon.com and many other other e-tailers. Ann Braithwaite at Braithwaite & Katz spearheaded an extensive international publicity campaign for the disc and Mark Elf / Jen Bay Records promoted it to over 300 radio and satellite radio worldwide! The reviews are in- visit GrupoYanqui.com to read them, hear the music and learn more about the band.
KJ Denhert Band: New Years in Italy
New Live CD Recorded!
KJ and Mamadou Ba deep in the groove...
Ah yes- back to sceinc Italia for New Years eve and 5 amazing days at Umbria Jazz Winter #15. This was my third, and KJ Denhert's 4th trip to Italy in 2 years to play one of the premier jazz festivals in all of Europe: Umbria Jazz. We played 9 shows in 5 days in the intimate, medieval town of Orvieto, home of one of the most beautiful and famous cathedrals in all of Italy. The festival was amazing, featuring Joe Lovano, Dr. Lonnie Smith, John & Gerald Clayton and many others. We recorded several shows from which KJ cherry-picked her favorite songs. Ben Wisch, who also recorded and mixed KJ's last studio CD (which I co-produced with her) did the mixes. I've heard the mixes and the music is amazing! It will feature KJ, me, John Cabán, Mamadou Ba, Ray Levier, Aaron Heick and Kevin Jones. Look for a winter 2008 release on Motema Music.
KJ and the band will be touring Northern and Southern California in early June- check my Gigs page for more details. And, we'll be back in Perugia, Italy for another great summer Umbria Jazz festival this July. Plus, we're playing JVC jazz in NYC in June and handful of other East Coast festivals throughout the summer. You know where to look for details...
Current Recording and Production
Winter '07/'08 and Spring '08 have been rockin' (and swingin' too) at my studio, Benny's Wash n' Dry, here in scenic Brooklyn. I recently completed several long-term projects and several others are ongoing.
KJ Denhert and I co-produced much of her latest studio CD Lucky 7, now out on Motema Music . It's an eclectic collection of songs that reflect KJ's diverse inspirations; it's a stew of funk, blues, jazz and rock with the spirit of a true singer-songwriter. In addition to KJ on vocals and guitar and me on piano and keys, the disc features many of KJ's regular rotating cast band members and some special guests- Mamadou Ba, Ray Levier, Etienne Stadwijk, Peter Vitalone, Richard Hammond, Tony Mason, Steve Hass, Richard Bona, Manolo Badrena, Why Not Jansveld, Thierry Arpino and more...
I arranged and co-produced and performed on jazz singer Andy Suvalsky's sophmore recording. It's a straight-down-the-middle (and I mean that in a good way...) acoustic jazz project. Accompanying Andy's sweet, dynamic vocal stylings are my regular piano trio Paster, Ryan & Hall along with special guests guitarist Peter Bernstein and saxophonist/flutist Steve Wilson. Andy hopes to release this disc in Fall 2008.
Singer/Songwriter/Pianist Ruth Levy has also been spending a lot of time over at the Wash n' Dry. I am producing and arranging songs for her, the first of which, "Yaffa Sheli" has lyrics in hebrew! Ruth's piano approach blends elements of classical music with a classic 70's pop sound (think Carole King). To this we added drums by Yuval Lion (from Organic!) and 'cello by Jodi Redhage. The results are track that is powerful and devastating. Newer tracks have featured Hagar ben Ari on bass, Trevor Holder on drums and John Cabán on guitar. We should have a nice collection of songs ready for release by this fall. Trevor Holder just started a jazz/funk recording at the W&D too, which features me on piano and keys as well as behind the desk (well, it's a DAW, if not a desk).
Lately some of my favorite producer colleagues have been sending me tracks digitally, for me to add my keyboard flavor to. I do my parts and upload them to their servers, then if necessary I re-record, edit and tweak the tracks until they and the artists are happy. It's a great way to work because I always have my entire arsenal of acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic instruments, effects, amps and plug-ins to work with. Steve Walsh sent a track by Libby Weaver featuring a rhythm section of Victor Krauss and Matt Chamberlin. (I wish I could've been at that session live!) And Ken Rich invited me to play on records he's producing for Frank Ippolito and Rene Lopez. I also just recorded a group of strange and wonderful songs with fellow expat New Mexican Anna Egge.
Issa Cabrera and Nano Valerio produced an amazing world-jazz EP here in December and Jill Anna Ponisik recorded her 2007 holiday record here that same month. Also in December, Shingo Okudaira recorded an super-swingin' organ-trio session with Sheryl Bailey Brian Charette.
And who could forget Ritt Henn? We recently completed work on a collection of songs that blend his wry sense of humor as a lyricist with his gift for melody and groove. Along with me on piano and brother Jay Frederick on drums, Ritt plays a fat quarter note on bass and sings his ass off... He one of the funniest dudes on the planet too- check out his youtube channel, ManBassBox TV.
In addition to the new Grupo Yanqui CD (see above), Gregory Ryan and I have recorded a set of original music with long-time Spyro Gyra drummer Joel Rosenblatt, guitarist Vinny Valentino and percussionist Gilad. Greg is playing electric bass and I'm rocking the Fender Rhodes and Minimoog. This "dream rhythm section" explores original funk, jazz and Latin compositions in a setting that blends trusted musical connections with the freshness of new relationships. Saxophonist Chris Cheek also appears on a few tracks and contributes a composition to the date. We recorded at Joel's studio Cliffside Sound, in Yonkers, NY (with additional keyboards here at the Wash n Dry). Long-time collaborator Larry Phillabaum mixed the record and SonyBMG Music's Mark Wilder mastered it. Look for a limited, perhaps web-only, release sometime in 2008.
In addition to this production and engineering work, I have contributed keyboard tracks to recordings for many diverse artists including Joe Clausell, John Cruz, Teddy Goldstein, Amy Lennard, Laura Berman, Greg Tannen, the National, Adam Falcon, Ed Littman. Visit my Credits page for more info about these (and other) projects.
2007 Great American Jazz Piano Competition
In April, 2008 I traveled to Jacksonville Florida to compete as a finalist in the 2008 Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition. I performed in front of a supportive audience of almost 1000 people, playing several songs with house rhythm section that included drummer Danny Gottleib and bassist Dennis Marks. It was a fun weekend of playing music and meeting other musicians from around the country. When the music was over and the judges cast their votes, I was proud to have won 3rd place. This was my 5th straight year as a finalist in this competition.
Paster, Ryan and Hall: Invisible Horizon and Organic! Sweets
I’ve been hard at work on three new recordings. In May 2006, Gregory Ryan and Keith Hall and I returned to the studio, building on the success of our February ’06 Grupo Yanqui tour. In four busy days, we recorded two different projects: a Paster, Ryan & Hall trio album and the long-awaited second recording by Grupo Yanqui.
Paster, Ryan & Hall's second disc as a trio, Invisible Horizon, features more insightful original compositions and thoughtful arrangements of several standards- the “Good Feeling” is definitely still in! Buy the CD or high-quality mp3s at CDBaby, iTunes, or listen to it here .
Organic! spent a week just before Thanksgiving 2005 tracking some new funky psychedelic-soul improvisations and compositions. Guitarist and co-leader John Cabán and I subsequently “massaged” the tracks and, adding only minimal overdubs, molded them into new sound sculptures. Several of the long improvisations naturally flow from idea to idea, resulting in a connected suite of musical ideas, thus inspiring the name of the CD: Sweets. The recording captures the spirit of our live performances. This is our first release with our new drummer, Israeli sensation Yuval Lion. The disc (and high-quality mp3s) are available now from CDBaby , iTunes and many other online retailers.
Summer 2007 Roundup
KJ Denhert: Umbria Jazz and New CD
Gifted Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist KJ Denhert returned to Perugia, Italy to perform a residency at the Umbria Jazz Festival. For 10 straight days we performed two sets at the festival’s outdoor stage, often for crowds exceeding 500 people. The setting, Perugia, is an ancient town, perched atop a hill overlooking the scenic Umbrian countryside. The festival was among the most amazing scenes I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of: non-stop music all day and night, thousands of people wandering the historic, medieval streets and, of course, incredible eating and drinking. Ah, Italy!
We'll be returning to Italy to play in Orvieto, home of Umbria Jazz's Winter Festival, from December 28, 2007 till January 1st 2008. Wouldn't you like to come to Italy for New Year's eve? See you there!
KJ Denhert, Ray Levier, Mamadou Ba and Bennett Paster @ Umbria Jazz 2007
I co-produced some tracks on KJ's newest CD Lucky Seven , which has just been officially released by her new label Motema Music. Her lyrics are substantive and personal, the band's grooves are funky, jazzy and grooving and the fidelity (the disc was recorded and mixed by Ben Wisch) is tremendous. Do check her out!
Stanford Jazz Workshop
This August marked my 22nd trip returning to the San Francisco Bay Area to teach and perform at the Stanford Jazz Workshop (SJW) at Stanford University. This amazing jazz camp for kids and adult residency for college students and adults is always an inspiring gathering of musicians, both professional and amateur, who come together to improve our skills, network and further America's native music: Jazz. At this summer's SJW I performed a concert with legendary LA-based blues singer Barbara Morrison. I've never heard a singer who's scatting conjured the spirit and sound of Ella Fitzgerald as much as Barbara's did... We had a wonderful evening playing blues, jazz and standards for almost 400 people.
Gregory Ryan and I, (who met over 10 years ago at the SJW), played a show of our original funk/groove music with drum royalty Ndugu Chancler, long-time Grupo Yanqui member Yosvany Terry and saxaphonist/flutist Melecio Magdaluyo.
Besides the aforementioned musicians, this year's SJW faculty featured an amazing all-star lineup. I was privileged to teach (and sometimes get to play) with jazz greats: Jimmy Cobb, Kenny Barron, Eddie Gomez, Matt Wilson, Frank Wess, Terrell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon, Yosvany Terry, Ambrose Akinmusere and many more...
In October, 2006 Gregory Ryan and I returned to scenic Belgrade, Serbia to teach a jazz workshop to students at the Belgrade Faculty of Music (the local Conservatory). We had been in Belgrade in February of 2006 with Grupo Yanqui as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center / US State Dept.'s "The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad" program. This return trip was an extension of that program. We were fortunate to have an eager crop of extremely talented students who volunteered to take our 10-day series of classes in addition to their already-rigorous curriculum. All of our students were classically trained, but few had ever studied jazz, as their conservatory was just in the process of starting a jazz department. Our program focused on the fundamentals of jazz improvisation and phrasing and helped the students begin to develop a performance repertoire and a listening library. The US State Dept. gave us a grant to bring educational materials to the school's listening-library, so we hand-selected 20 "essential listening" jazz CDs and wrote an introduction explaining why we had selected each disc, why the artist was so important to jazz as well as suggestions for future listening. Hopefully we'll help inspire the next generation of Serbian jazz greats.
A small sub-group of our students were already quite accomplished at jazz before our arrival. We learned a lot from their original music which combined elements of jazz with traditional Serbian (and other Eastern European) styles. Two of these students, Dimi and Branco have come to the US to study at the Berkely College of Music. I imagine it's just a matter of time till they come to NYC and start taking our gigs...
Summer 2006: Touring and Teaching
In June 2006, my piano trio performed my original music for more than 500 people as part of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop’s Summer Jazz Under the Stars series at the Albuquerque Museum and we played a swinging gig at a club in Santa Fe. This is the second straight year that I’ve been able to play in my home state; our following is growing and CD sales were brisk.
Sheryl Bailey, Sue Hadjopolous, KJ Denhert, Ray Levier, Mamadou Ba and me
Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist KJ Denhert and I have been acquainted for almost ten years. Though we share mutual friends and even appear on the BAG1 Compilation CD together, until July we had never gotten to perform together. KJ invited me to join her band for a residency in Perugia, Italy at the Umbria Jazz Festival. For 10 straight days we performed two sets at the festival’s outdoor stage, often for crowds exceeding 500 people. The setting, Perugia, is an ancient town, perched atop a hill overlooking the scenic Umbrian countryside. The festival was among the most amazing scenes I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of: non-stop music all day and night, thousands of people wandering the historic, medieval streets and, of course, incredible eating and drinking. Ah, Italy! KJ and I are co-producing several tracks on her forthcoming CD, which should be available by the 2006 Winter holidays.
Hammond organ royalty Dr. Lonnie Smith and I enjoying some tasty Italian watermelon!
In August, I returned for my 21st summer of teaching and performing at the Stanford Jazz Workshop at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. Highlights of this summer included a Paster, Ryan and Hall trio perfomance as part of the Stanford Jazz Festival, teaching and playing with jazz royalty, brothers Jimmy and Tootie Heath and rne leading a casual lunchtime concert that featured drummer Bill Stewart, bassist Rodney Whittaker, guitarist Peter Bernstein and trumpeter Brian Lynch. Plus, working with the up-and-coming jazz students at the workshop always inspires and refreshes my creativity.
Albert "Tootie" Heath, me and Jimmy Heath
Me, Peter Bernstein, Rodney Whittaker, Bill Stewart, Brian Lynch
Click here for Winter 2006 News page