Welcome to the official website for Pianist, Keyboardist, Composer, Producer and Engineer Bennett Paster, from Brooklyn, NY. This site focuses on my work as a performer, bandleader, recording artist and composer.
For detailed information about my work as a producer, engineer and sideman and about Benny’s Wash n, Dry, my studio, visit bennettpasterstudio.com.
Latest Bennett Paster News
Sunday, September 18, 4-6pm
Operation Gig: Outdoor Performance
171 Westminster Road, Brooklyn
Free; Suggested Donation $10/person or $20/group
Wednesday, October 5, sets at 7:30pm & 9pm
163 W 10th St, NYC
Reserved Seats $35, available at smallslive.com
Walk in seats $25, subject to availability
Bennett Paster – piano
Gary Wang – bass
Tony Mason – drums
As the world around us continues to grow ever more complex, I’ve found myself looking to music for an antidote: something to settle, to soothe, to smooth over the wrinkles of our modern lives. My latest trio and set of new compositions, and our forthcoming recording, are the results of this search, resulting in the kind of music that I’ve wanted to hear: a simpler, more essential expression of jazz; music that is, in a word, Understated.
Synthesizing elements of soul jazz & boogaloo, blues and groove, with singable melodies and a touch of modern harmony, my aim is for this music to be satisfyingly listenable while still substantial and genuine. Group interplay and groove trump individual soloistic expression; the listener can surrender to our sonic universe and the songs land in the ear with a satisfying splash.
Stop by one of our two debut gigs, and stay tuned here for more info about the forthcoming Understated recording.
I’m always delighted to be in the company (in person, or via the virtual online studio) of vocalist Tyley Ross and guitarist and sonic wizard Ben Butler, and I’m delighted to share our newest release in a series of great Canadian song covers. Here’s our rendition of Bobcaygeon, originally recorded by The Tragically Hip. This song was new to me when I learned it for a gig with Tyley the year before the pandemic. The song has a simple power and a mysterious and frighteningly compelling lyric, but I hadn’t heard Tyley’s story behind why he chose this song (see his comment in the original post). Knowing now how he connects to this song in such a personal and painful way adds to its power.
Kudos to Tyley for his beautiful singing and vocal arranging, and also to Ben for crafting this arrangement and playing so many contrasting parts on guitar, keys, samples, etc. I played piano, mixed and mastered the track. Enjoy!
Here’s Tyley’s touching story about why he chose this song:
How Bobcaygeon got under my skin is a mystery. It’s not a song that hooked me on the first listen, but over the years it grew on me, and now from New York City where I live it fills me with memories of the North and has the power to pull me back home. Listening to it puts me at a lakeside campfire in the woods somewhere north of the 401, and then somehow, that middle section snaps me back to the 1990’s on Queen West.
Another layer of meaning was added for me when The Hip’s lead singer Gord Downie got cancer around the time we found out my brother Carrick was on the same painful trip. When Gord left the stage for good my big brother followed him out soon afterwards. This is one of the songs that connects me to him still.
I find solace in music, especially in songs that can take you back to better times. Songs that remind you of where you’re from, of the people who love you and the ones you’ve lost.
I’m joined here again (via our virtual and asynchronous recording studio) by Bennett Paster on piano and mixing duties, Ben Butler on guitar and most everything else. The voices are mine. The artwork is by Bob Donatucci, who incidentally, I pay with chocolate babka from his favorite NYC bakery.
Singer/songwriter Emily Cavanaugh and I co-produced the track “Seeing Me Home (A Song for Idaho).” Emily has a charitable project called A Song for You that crafts custom songs for people facing end-of-life situations- this song was part of that work. This heart-wrenching song was written for St Lukes Health System in Idaho, who distributed the song to their network of over 15,000 nurses, many of whom performed in the song’s video. Emily sang lead and backing vocals, and I mixed, arranged and played keyboards. The track also features Leo Sidran (bass, drums, guitar), Wells Hanley (piano) and Oscar Zambrano (mastering). Check out the touching video below or stream the song on your favorite platform.
Benny’s Wash & Dry is open for in-person recording sessions! We took advantage of some downtime during these last few pandemic months to upgrade our D/A converters, audio interface, CPU and headphone system. The studio is now centered on a zero-latency Avid Pro Tools Carbon interface and Lynx Aurora 16 (n) system. We upgraded our Mac Pro computer from 6 to a whopping 12 cores, doubling our processing power. Our new headphone mixers are a Digital Audio Labs Livemix system with 24 inputs, featuring custom mixes with levels, panning and more for each musician.
What does this mean to me, you may ask? Your experience while playing is the most important thing. Our new system assures the minimum possible latency in the headphones. That means there’s no perceptible delay between what you play and what you hear. This makes the recording experience ultra-transparent. The Carbon and Aurora (n) both have the latest state-of-the-art D/A converters assuring true, deep, transparent sound. Our new Livemix headphone mixers have more flexibility, more inputs and much better sound-quality than our old Furman system. And they’re easy to learn and use, with a dedicated “Me” knob that always controls your level in the headphones.
Interactions between musicians, great sight lines and a positive environment for creativity are critical to the creative process- we’ve still got that covered- but it’s also helpful when the gear your using helps achieve these goals by being high-quality and transparent. Book a session or come by for a tour and take advantage of our new improvements soon- we’d love to work with you to help you achieve your musical vision.
Hello friends! Spring is my favorite season here in NYC, and after the doldrums of winter, I’m rambling ahead into the lovely weather with a feeling of hope and promise. I’ve started booking some live performances again, I have a new single to share, and I’m preparing to safely reopen my recording studio for public sessions sometime in the coming months. Stay tuned for more info, or shoot me an email to discuss your project and goals. In the meantime, we’re still doing remote production, mixing, tracking & more!
Vocalist Tyley Ross, guitarist Ben Butler and I have been working on a new moody, atmospheric collection of Canadian songs that I’m really proud of. Here’s the second track from the forthcoming EP: Try (originally recorded by Blue Rodeo).
2020 was a humdinger of a year- one that I think we can all be glad is now behind us… In the spirit of rebirth and renewal, I offer up this new release from vocalist Tyley Ross (East Village Opera Company frontman and leader), with me and guitarist Ben Butler (Sting, George Michael). Tyley’s dulcet high tenor eloquently expresses Leonard Cohen’s message, while Ben’s haunting e-bow & tender acoustic guitar and my keys and mix set the song in a dreamy landscape, bathed in ambience and light. I hope you enjoy it this first release from what promises to be a new collection of songs in 2021.
With fond remembrances of all those we lost in 2020, I offer this with love and hope. Here’s to a brighter 2021.
I love the light and color of the Fall, but it’s been strange and sad not playing public performances, nor having live musicians in my studio for 8+ months. During these challenging times we have all had to adapt our lifestyles and our work to this new landscape. In the midst of it all, I strive to I remind myself the importance of looking both within myself and outside to our everyday surroundings to find inspiration, meaning and beauty.
I’ve been finding splendor and comfort in long walks around the glacial hills, winding paths and giant trees of Greenwood Cemetery, in occasional masked jam sessions in our backyard, getting fit in online cardio kickboxing classes, in time spent with family and in practicing piano just for its own sake (“Pictures at an Exhibition,” anyone?).
Creative connections with colleagues continue to nurture me too. I’ve had the privilege of engaging in some inspiring remote studio collaborations including: producing new recordings for rootsy singer/songwriter Dahlia Ross and Alaskan jazz pianist/composer Morgan Quick, tracking keyboards with house music legend Joe Clausell, mastering, re-balancing and restoration of live gig recordings for jazz singer Dennis Day, mixing for chanteuse Cynthia Scott and children’s band Here Comes Trouble (Jon Babu & Kelly Donahue), keyboard tracking and production for Guilherme Montiero/Nina Alves, and more.
In the midst of all this turbulence, I’ve been reflecting on how the title of my 2012 album Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful seems more relevant to my life than ever. We each have to exert the energy to find, to create, to nurture, or simply just to see the beauty all around us. We will be rewarded by that effort by finding a precious moment of peace amidst life’s chaos and uncertainty.
Wash n’ Dry Studio is open for remote work only- but don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to discuss working together on a remote collaboration. Let’s make something beautiful together.
images of BP and ESP & BP (c) Jenni Walkowiak 2020, header image by Bennett Paster
1986 flashback: dateline Albuquerque, New Mexico: High school classmates bassist Stuart Popejoy, drummer David Shaffer and I have a trio called “dbs Noise Creation.” We used to play jazz and standards regularly at school events, and also occasionally perform live around Albuquerque. Deep in my closet I have our debut cassette recording from that era. That same year we met a tenor saxophonist named Alisa Valdés who attended a different high school. We played together as a quartet on occasion, both with Shaffer and later more frequently with another classmate, late drummer Blair Newsome as the Nouveau Adobe Quartet.
Alisa was a mature young musician, more interested in the soulful lyricism of her melodic lines than in simply how many notes or how loud she could play. We became close friends and jazz buddies- our shared love for jazz was rare amongst my peers. She turned us on to records by Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon, Steps ahead and others, and though only a year older than us, her musical honestly and essential simplicity influenced my development in ways that I still consider important.
Flash forward to the present: Alisa Valdés is a well known published author. We’ve been occasionally in touch over the past 30+ years. But, I recently learned that she was facing some serious health struggles. With the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic bearing down on the world, I decided I should reunite the dbs trio to remotely record a track for Alisa.
Stuart, David and I had only recently played together for the first time in over 30 years at my 50th Birthday party in February 2020. But I knew these guys would do a great job creating something to cheer up an old friend. I selected an unrecorded song that I wrote in 2010 while on tour with Paul Beaudry and Pathways for the US State Dept entitled Haze and Light. The song’s simple, essential melody reminded me of Alisa and the ways she’d influenced me back in the 80s.
Enjoy the first recorded music from Paster, Popejoy and Shaffer in decades- Haze and Light. Alisa is recovering is expected to make a full recovery. Get well soon, old friend- we send our love.
If you lived in NYC during the late 1990s and early 2000s, you might remember my funk band Yes Virginia. Our recording Overeasy is still one of my favorite albums I’ve ever done. Though we’ve all been working on other projects in past decades, my bandmates and I have stayed in touch. For years, in our previous band Random House of Soul, we often performed our rendition of Bill Withers’ Kissing My Love. Withers’ recent sad passing incited us to reunite to record this song for the first time. Tracked remotely, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this video serves as a reminder of the importance of staying connected with friends and loved ones. And, hopefully, it’ll get you dancing and brighten your day!
Recorded by and featuring: Bennett Paster, Matt Stone, Whynot Jansveld and Jamie Moore, with fond memories of our fallen bandmates Andrew Frawley and Jill Seifers Walsh. Mixed by Bennett Paster and Mastered by Whynot Jansveld. Video edited by Matt Stone.
Hard to believe it’s been 35 years since I first attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop as a camper in 1984. I’ve returned there to teach, learn and play and live & breathe jazz most summers since then. This year was particularly inspiring. In my musicianship classes, I basked in the glow of some amazing young musicians, many with perfect pitch and boundless energy, who always managed to play back whatever chromatic craziness I played at them… Watch out world! My combo met in the courtyard this year, which allows us to truly enjoy Northern California’s loveliness as we swung and learned.
In addition to a full teaching schedule, I got to perform in 3 concerts during my 6-day trip. The first was a poignant and heartfelt celebration of the music of bassist/composer John Shiflett, who passed far too soon about 2 years ago. Saxophonist Kris Strom and guitarist Scott Sorkin arranged Shifflett’s music for groups from 5-10 instruments, and we joyously remembered and celebrated our mutual friend from the stage in Campbell Recital Hall, where I saw John play so many times over the years.
Bassist Ruth Davies has led “Blues Night” at Stanford Jazz Festival for almost a decade. It’d been a few years since I’d been there to join her for one; in past years the late Ndugu Chancler, she, I along with guitarist Danny Carron, were the house band for artists including: Robin Ford, Henry Butler, Keb Mo’ and others. This year found us reunited behind Grammy-Nominated Blues artist Ruthie Foster. (Thanks to keyboardist John Burr for sharing the keyboard chair with me!) Ruthie flows effortlessly between soulful blues and gospel singing, groovy guitar playing and inspired songwriting. It made for a super-fun evening of groovy blues and beyond.
On the final Friday I got to swing with saxophonist/composer Lynn Speakman’s band. Lynn is an amazing alto player from Pittsburgh, who I met at SJW, and also hug with during her NYC years. We swung through some swinging hard bop, and got to play the Cannonball Adderley classic Azule Serape (written by Victor Feldman) with Cannonball’s long-time drummer Roy McCurdy. Roy is 82 years young, and swings with a feel and passion of a guy half his age. He was always one of my favorite drummers (and Billy Hart cites him as his primary influence); I’d always wanted to swing with Roy, and I’m glad we got to do it this summer.