Remembering Ndugu: A musical send-off for one of the greatest drummers ever.
Stanford Jazz Festival
Thursday July 26, 2018 7:30pm
Gregory Ryan, Ndugu Chancler and me (1996)
When Leon “Ndugu” Chancler passed away earlier this year, the world lost one of the greatest drummers in music. His contributions to pop and funk are legendary, from Michael Jackson’s iconic “Billy Jean” and records with Lionel Richie and Donna Summer, to the deeply funky “Let It Whip” by the Dazz Band and equally grooving collaborations with keyboardist George Duke. His jazz credentials are no less impressive, including projects with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Weather Report, Santana, Frank Sinatra and many others.
For over 20 years, Ndugu was an essential and much beloved member of the Stanford Jazz Workshop faculty, generously sharing his vast experience with SJW students. For many of these years I had the privilege of learning from him and of teaching alongside him during this Summer workshop. The music we played ran the gamut from straight ahead jazz, to my original music- Latin jazz swing, groove and beyond, songs by Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report, and Blues Nights with Ruth Davies, Keb Mo, Henry Butler, Houston Person and more. Every time we shared the bandstand Ndugu raised the level of the musical dialectic. Playing with him was like being fueled by a nuclear reactor. Hearing him teach and talk about his career was like a direct line to the tradition and the future of jazz simultaneously. I’m proud to have called him a friend, and I truly miss his smile, his encyclopedic knowledge of the tradition, his profound reverence for music and his deep groove.
At this special concert, members of the SJW faculty will celebrate our personal and musical connections to and memories of Ndugu over the years. We’re especially honored to have Ndugu’s close friend and associate, legendary keyboardist Patrice Rushen joining us for this show.
Thursday July 26, 2018, 7:30PM
Campbell Recital Hall
471 Lagunita Drive
Stanford, CA 94305
Bennett Paster, keyboards
Patrice Rushen, keyboards
Carmen Staaf: Keyboards
Allison Miller, Ana Barreiro, Mike Mitchell, Miles Labatt: Drums & Percussion
David Yamasaki: Guitar
Josh Thurston Milgrom, Rob Kohler, Aneesa Strings: Bass
Ben Flocks, Lynn Speakman, Jessica Jones, Kris Strom, Steven Lugerner: Woodwinds
Victor Lin: Violin
Natalie John, Aneesa Strings, Valerie Troutt: Vocals
For more than 40 years my Father, Stuart Paster, served the community of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I grew up, as Radiologist. Though he’s retired now, he cared for his patients with a steadfast hand and compassionate bedside manner. He’s enjoying a well-earned retirement now: he frequently gardens, golfs and fishes, plus occasionally joins Eliot and I on skis.
Along with being a good doctor, he’s also always been a great Dad: supportive, loving, easygoing and full of joy. Thanks for all you did for us, Dad, and all you continue to do. I love you!
This original song, featuring Gregory Ryan on bass, Alexandre Kautz on drums and the NY Horns, is a tribute to him, The Good Doctor. Enjoy!
2017 and early 2018 have continued to find me busy recording and producing great music at my studio Benny’s Wash n’ Dry. Recent studio and recording project highlights have included:
- I added 2 exceptional condenser microphones to my mic locker made by ADK: Z-Mod 67 and Z-Mod 251. Special thanks to ADK founder Larry Villela for his help in finding the best choices for my studio.
- Recording and mixing my original music with my Trio Brasiliero featuring Gregory Ryan and Alex Katz with a special guest appearance by the New York Horns (listen to that track here).
- Work on a new original collaboration with Joe Clausell and Anthony Pinciotti that fuses my original instrumental funk and jazz with Joe and Anthony’s rhythmic and textural skills. Sam Thomas guested on Oud on one track, so far!
- Tracked new release by phenomenal young Haitian drummer Johnbern Thomas and his band; mixed by Ben Rubin
- Work on a new full-length project by Canadian singer Melanie Gall that runs the gamut stylistically from jazz to rock to Americana & string band. Working title: Songs I Like
- Recorded vocals for Kat Gang’s new CD which was recently mixed and master by Dave Darlington
- Mixed baritone Bremner Duthie’s latest release “Bremner Duthie Sings Kurt Weill vol 2”
- Recording several library music projects with producer/drummer Ethan Eubanks
- Recorded James Shipp and Nadje Nordhuis duo and James Shipp solo projects
- I’ve performed and co-written many tracks with legendary house DJ and producer Joe Clausell
- I recorded and played keyboards for Jonathan Coulton’s latest recording Solid State, and his super-secret next release, with produced by the amazing Christian Cassan.
- Singer/songwriter Michael Harren tracking string quartet, piano & voice for his suite about animal rights
- Producer Brinsley Evans, Lisa Molina and I have co-written a song that we hope to place in a major motion picture… standby for more details
- Co-writing with Hannah Gill and Brad Hammonds for Hannah’s upcoming album
- Produced and arranged several songs for jazz Singer Dennis Day which we recorded at Sear Sound, in Manhattan, recorded and mixed by Chris Allen.
- Keyboard tracks for artists including: Storm, Jim Satten, CeCe Gianotti, Rench, Sean Mc Morris, Horace Scott, Annette Genovese, Pete Miser,
- Engineered projects for: Victor Lin & Ben Flocks, Nikki Denner, Carol Lipnik & John Kelly, Drew Paralic, Glenn Spivack, Paul Spencer, Jacob Joilff (Pat Ferguson), Myriam Phiro, Sheryl Bailey
One of the best parts about my work is contributing to other people’s original music projects. They run the stylistic gamut from rock & pop to Latin & jazz to Americana, Blues or roots and beyond, and I love following an artist and a song to try to help them fully realize their potential using my diverse palette of musical experience. But, every now and then I get the chance to work with someone who’s vision is so different than mine, but is so strong and irrefutable: TJ Mercury is a young songwriter, singer, rapper, visual artist and conceptualist.
Producer (and Grammy-winning Mastering Engineer) Mark Christensen discovered TJ and invited me to work on the album, called “The Ghost that Haunts My Castle” from the ground level of pre-production. We continued work on tracking the project at Engine Room Audio in NYC, and did extensive synth and string overdubs too. The basic tracks feature legendary NYC session drummer Shawn Pelton (SNL), guitarist Ben Butler (George Michael), bassist Oscar Convers and TJ’s sister, singer and creative partner Chelsea Rae with additional contributions by his regular working band. The result is a broad-based concept album about love, politics and the travels of the modern world that’s rooted in classic rock and modern rap with psychedelic, neoclassical and piano-rock and modern pop influences too. TJ just kept wanting to add more and more layers to this recording, and somehow Mark Christensen and his mixing team (Greg Pizzulo and Darren Fewins) reconciled the layers into a deep, broad modern concept album.
TJ is a talented visual artist, too. And, when I browsed over to his website, https://mercuryandthearchitects.com I discovered that it was rich with graphic imagery and, much to my surprise, a “maze” with ciphers and visual puzzles for visitors to enter and solve. All things told, he’s a very creative young artist with the chutzpah to follow through on his vision. Check out his site, his music (streaming on iTunes and Spotify and Soundcloud) and as TJ writes: “Crack the code. Take off your TV head. Become an Architect.” Highly recommended!
You may be familiar with singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton (aka JoCo) as the house musician on the NPR game show “Ask Me Another” (recorded live at Brooklyn’s Bell House), or perhaps you heard his “Thing a Week” podcast where he recorded, produced and posted song every week for a year. If so, then you know he’s a pithy songwriter with a knack for writing catchy, sardonic, modern pop songs about literally anything! I’ve been recording keyboard tracks for Jonathan and his producer Christian Cassan for many years now, including music for the TV show A Crime to Remember,” but they recently released JoCo’s strongest original recording yet, Solid State. I’m proud to have contributed some piano and keyboard tracks to this epic concept album that is available as an impressive LP package including full-color graphic novel and digital download encoded on a mock-science lab ID card with USB flash drive built in. The album peaked at #8 on the Billboard Indie Album charts, and I’ve enjoyed listening to it quite a bit. Here’s an article about JoCo from the Huffington Post with more info. Check out Solid State wherever you stream or purchase music, know what I mean?
I’m excited to announce that the popular local blog Ditmas Park Corner just posted an interview of me by author Chris Farrell. We discuss life as musician and studio owner at the intersection of Kensington, Windsor Terrace and Ditmas Park, and he asks some interesting questions about my piano and keyboard collection. You can check it out the original post here. Due to space constraints, DPC cut almost half of the content.
Chris has graciously offered to make the entire article available to me-
if you’d like to read the un-abridged version, the complete text is here.
Goodness gracious, I realize it’s been almost 2 years since I last posted any news entries on this website. I’m so sorry! I’ve been so busy gigging, working in the studio and enjoying my family that I’ve been seriously remiss in posting anything new here. I promise to be better about it- there’s a lot to share. And my gigs page is current. In the meantime, here’s a super short synopsis of what I’m up to.
Gigs- My Friday evening trio residency continues in earnest at Hillstone. I have the privilege of playing with a hand-picked selection of the best rhythm section players in NYC and beyond. Join us for a drink, some spinach dip, steak or sushi, or just chill and listen as we play original music, jazz and standards, Stevie and Beatles tunes and more at the Ranch.
Bill, Still! Celebrates the Music of Bill Withers- we’re at Bar Lunatico every other Thursday in June, plus we’ve been playing the Bitter End and Rockwood Music Hall.
Halcyon Jukebox takes you on a trip back in time to the glory days of 70’s AM and 80’s Soft-Rock radio. Some of NYC’s most fearless improvisers will balance reverence and exploration on a playlist of deliciously cheesy hits form yesteryear.
During the summer I’m often busy with The Loyales, a party band I play with that NY Magazine called “A living, breathing jukebox, full of expertly curated 45s.” Our playlist includes classic soul, Stax and Motown, classic country and bluegrass, vintage reggae and some choice 80’s favorites. We rarely showcase in public- mostly we play hipster weddings and swanky corporate parties. (Getting married??)
Studio- My studio, Benny’s Wash & Dry has been buzzing with activity lately… I’m always up to something creative and funky down here. We do live ensemble recording for jazz, singer-songwriters, rock, roots and beyond. Plus we do a lot of commercial and educational work. Check out the studio site for more details. Recent artists have included Joe Clausell, Rench, Lisa Parrott, Paul Beaudry & Dennis Day, John Thomas, Laurell Eden, Sal Cosentino, Melanie Gall, Yuma Sung, Cory Cullinan and more!
Recent gear improvements include microphones by Schoeps, SAMAR and Lawson, and preamps by John Hardy and Vintech.
Upcoming Travel- From June 15-26 I’m off to Israel for a tour with singer-songwriter KJ Denhert. We worked together regularly in the mid 2000’s and I’m excited to reunite with her for my first trip to Middle East since 1984.
This July and August I return for my 30-somthingth summer at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. I’ll be teaching and playing shows there, including a Steveie Wonder tribute featuring vocalist Claytoven Richardson on Wed, July 27th.
OK- I promise to write more soon. Thanks for visiting bennettpaster.com Don’t hesitate to contact me for more info about anything I do.
June 2, 16 & 30, 8:30-11pm
486 Halsey Street, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
Everybody loves Bill Withers. But if you’re like me, there are some “deep-cut” BW songs you might not know. And, with his notoriously low profile in the scene, he hasn’t performed live in decades. Bill, Still! seeks to present Withers’ music in a modern, straightforward context that let’s the man’s songs and classic arrangements shine without unnecessary adornment. Put simply, we’ve assembled a list of Bill’s hits and some lesser-known gems and a group of NYC’s funkiest cats are going to deliver simply and straight to your soul, with deep reverence and love.
Irving Louis Lattin (vocals/guitar), Al Street (guitar), BP (keys 6/2, 30), John Deley (keys 6/16), Andy Hess (bass), Ethan Eubanks (drums/MD)
This summer I celebrated my 30th year of involvement with the Stanford Jazz Workshop at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. I started as a student at the Workshop in 1984 and I’ve only missed two summers along the way – now I’m a senior faculty member. This year I taught ensembles, masterclasses, musicianship and more, and played a handful of fun concerts and sessions. Thanks to my fellow faculty, as well as the staff and students for the inspiration, the camaraderie and all the great music and conversation.
Longtime Workshop friend (and astounding pianist/composer) Taylor Eigsti and I co-led a concert at this year’s Stanford Jazz Festival. We played together and apart with a band of SJW friends old and new that included Ben Flocks, David Hart and Steven Lugerner in the frontline, Josh Thurston Milgrom, Steve Rossi and Tupac Mantilla in the rhythm section. We each selected a few songs that we’d learned at and/or associated with the Workshop in past years and added a few new and old original tunes of our own. The result was a diverse program of entertaining music for ensemble sizes from classic piano trio to 2 pianos plus percussion to full-blown septet blowout!
Saxophonist and composer Yosvany Terry Cabrera, who I first met at SJW his very fist summer in the USA was back at the Workshop and we got an opportunity to play some of our original music at a noon concert that featured one of my all-time favorite drummers Peter Erskine along with Dana Leong, Dayna Stephens and David Wong. What a band- we had a blast! In addition to his sweet tenor sax, Dayna busted out his EWI (electronic wind instrument) for some silky, syrupy synth lines while Dana whistled(!) in addition to playing his trombone. Good times were had by all!
Other notable highlights (there are way too many to list them all) included:
Student ensembles full of bright young musicians, many of whom I expect to see in NYC and on the scene in the years to come.
Memorable concerts by and hangs with: Fred Hersch, George Cables, Richard Sears, Jeb Patton Trio, Dena DeRose, Fly, Jack DeJohnette and a special appearance by Chick Corea.
Spring and Summer 2014 have been full of interesting and diverse projects at Benny’s Wash n’ Dry. Recent studio and recording project highlights have included:
- Composer/guitarist John Cabàn recording keyboards, strings and sax for the soundtrack to indie-documentary “Drill Baby, Drill”
- Italian saxophonist Biaggio Copa: new CD with Rob Garcia and Arùan Ortiz
- KJ Denhert recorded 3 new 2014 summer singles with me on piano, plus Jim Whitney and Joe Strasser
- Tracking for Dane Terry’s new disc with producer Matt Katz
- Singer/songwriter Michael Harren tracking strings, piano and oboe
- Work on a 25-song French educational project with singer/songwriter Vincent Lebrun
- Jazz singer Kim Cameron’s new CD, produced by Paul Beaudry
- Piano tracks for 2 new Fringe Festival shows by singer Melanie Gall
- Keyboards for legendary remixer/producer/DJ Joe Clausell
- Keyboards for Lipbone Redding’s new CD with producer Jeff Eyrich
- Piano tracks for Music & The Brain, a piano education program for public schools