Stanford Jazz Workshop 2019
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.
The critics have spoken…
Thanks to all who have shown support for my new CD Indivisible by purchasing the CD, streaming the record, sharing it with friends and/or attending one of our performances. I’ve heard from so many friends and fans , both here in the NYC area and around the USA and overseas about how much they’re enjoying the groovy jazz sounds. We’re so appreciative for your support and your feedback! Stay tuned for more performances coming soon- We’ll be at Halyard’s in Brooklyn on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019.
The record has been played on over 20 radio stations, mostly jazz and college radio with a peak chart position of 63, but it has made the top 10 weekly jazz lists of several stations. Thanks to Ben Sholz at Sholz Productions for his deft radio promotion.
Thanks to the tireless work of Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services, we’ve also gotten lots of positive feedback from jazz critics around the world. Here’s a sampling of reviews. Click here for more press about Indivisible.
“A very fine keyboardist and pianist, Bennett Paster grows by leaps and bounds with every project. On his new CD Indivisible, he doesn’t synthesize his influences, but rather turns every composition into his own private vision of blues, mainstream jazz, funk, New Orleans and beyond… He displays bebop sensibilities while reserving the best of his immense talents for a sense of teamwork.”
MGN, Hot House Magazine, June 2019
“Deeply moving grooving jazz”
Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
“For his latest, keyboard ace [Bennett Paster] wants to underscore that the groove is everywhere and it can’t be separated no matter how you try to separate the genres. He proves his point mightily. With loads of swing throughout, his jazz isn’t always purely jazz but it’s welcome no matter to which extremes he takes it. Tasty and assured throughout, this is jazz that’s always welcome. Well done.”
Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“A pianist-organist virtuoso… fun grooves…and smooth interplay between the musicians…timeless elegance and shimmering grace… highly danceable…
A universally enjoyable and intriguing affair of solo filled and carefully constructed fusion of blues, country, funk, surf, and others on this charmingly entertaining album.”
Tom Haugen, Take Effect Reviews
I’m delighted to announce the release of my latest album Indivisible, available now!
Deep groove is the number one priority on Indivisible, my latest recording of melodic instrumental jazz. Each of the album’s 10 original songs explores a different flavor of groove. From 5/4 swing to funky 70s samba, from New Orleans to Nordic open 8th, and onwards to funk, country waltz, fusion, surf and beyond, this collection takes you on a tour of rhythmic styles, drawing connections between contrasting beats through our constant commitment to groove. Recorded at my Brooklyn studio in mid 2018, each song is produced with a unique sonic identity to match its style. The magic is in how this hand-picked band of groove-master musicians- most of whom I’ve collaborated with for more than 20 years- draw this collection of diverse songs together into one cohesive, accessible album. This is Indivisible.
Available wherever you stream or purchase music, including: CDbaby, Amazon, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify & Soundcloud.
Bennett Paster- keyboards
Jeff Hanley- bass
Tony Mason- drums
Al Street- guitar
Kenny Brooks- tenor sax
Samuel Torres- congas & percussion
Todd Isler- percussion
All compositions by Bennett Paster
Produced, Recorded and Mixed by Bennett Paster at Benny’s Wash & Dry, Brooklyn, NY
Mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk
(c) (p) 2019 Wurliboy Music (SESAC)
Wash & Dry Studio News, Fall-Winter 18-19
The tulips and crocuses are popping up in Brooklyn- another Fall and Winter seems to be succumbing to the relentlessly encroaching Spring. It’s a great time to look back on all the hard work that I’ve been doing in my studio, Benny’s Wash & Dry, both on my own and with a collection of talented musician artists.
I love to produce recording projects, both for instrumentalists and singers. From conceptualizing the project and picking repertoire, to finding the right band personnel, through the arranging, recording and mixing process, I enjoy the journey! Last Fall I had the pleasure of co-producing two sensational singers, Ellynne Rey and Melanie Gall. Both of their new recordings are available now.
Connecticut-based vocalist/songwriter Ellynne Rey’s The Birdsong Project features a broad-range of jazz approaches to a diverse collection of songs about birds. Ellynne and I worked together to craft the arrangements over a period of several months of rehearsal, then we recorded the album in two sessions at the Wash & Dry. The resulting album is well rounded, exciting and eminently listenable. From the classics “Skylark,” “Blackbird” and “Ornithology,” to the unexpected: Schubert’s “Die Krahe (The Crow)” and Joni Mitchell’s “Song to a Seagull,” to Rey’s original jazz waltz “The Snowy Owl,” the album features a talented group of experienced NYC-based jazz musicians, including Rey on vocals and me on piano and organ, plus Joel Frahm on sax, Alex Norris on trumpet, Freddie Bryant on guitar, Marcus Mclauraine on bass and drummers Anthony Pinciotti and Joe Strasser. The packaging also showcases her formidable talent as a wildlife photographer. This was our second recording project together and I’m delighted to have had both opportunities to grow together as artists. http://www.ellynnesings.com/
Canadian chanteuse Melanie Gall travels the world presenting her original shows in Fringe Festivals, theaters and beyond. I’ve arranged and recorded many of the soundtrack and accompaniments to these shows. When she approached me wanting to put together a recording of songs that have inspired and influenced her over the years, I jumped at the opportunity. The songs naturally divided themselves into two groups: half required a standard pop & jazz rhythm section; the other half seemed to merit an acoustic string band. I found the perfect group of folks who could fulfill both and we set out on a campaign of realizing her vision. Highway Rhapsody features Gall presenting 3 standards: “But Not for Me,” “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “My Ship”, and a group of songs which were new to me, including: “Gulf Coast Highway,” “Let the Cold Wind Blow,” “The Queen and the Soldier,” “I Will Play a Rhapsody” and more… It’s a crazy collection of folk songs, standards, pop songs, country classics and more, unified by her love of all them! The album features: Gall on vocals, me on keyboards, plus Ross Martin on guitars, Jacob Joliffe on mandolin, Bobby Hawk on fiddle, Jim Whitney on bass and Robert Weiss on drums. https://www.melaniegall.com/
In addition to composing, producing, performing and recording my own music, I enjoy supporting other artists as a sideman, both playing live and also contributing keyboard tracks “remotely” from my studio. Here are two featured sideman projects from the last few months:
In his own words, Jonathan Coulton’s Some Guys “covers of 70s soft rock songs that sound exactly like the originals.” Produced by the amazing Christian Cassan, we set out to recreate the smooth magic of the songs that fueled many a long car ride with my folks back in my childhood in New Mexico. It was a joy (and a ton of work) to learn and recreate, note-for-note classics including: Baker Street, How Deep is Your Love, On and On, Make it With You and many more. Listening to it is like time travel- I’m transported back to the back of my mom’s Buick with the maroon interior. Dig it. https://www.jonathancoulton.com/
Sean McMorris’s new album C’est La Vie is the third I’ve played on for the LA-based singer/songwriter. Also produced by Christian Cassan, it’s a spirited collection of original rock and pop featuring me on vintage keyboards. https://www.seanmcmorris.com/home
Other recent clients at the Wash & Dry include: Joe Clausell, Xavier Casellas and Emillio Solla, Ethan Eubanks, Storefront Music, Stefan Litzky, John Thomas, Janie Barnett, Ricky Tinelli, Annette Genovese, Fiona Smart, Akiko Matsumoto, Aaron Morrill, Dahlia Ross, Dennis Day, Jawney Conroy, Alex Khurgen, Yuma Sung, Paul Spencer, Ed Littman, Sidecar Astronauts, Michael Harren, Kim Cameron, Juwanna Jenkins, Carol Lipnik and more…
If you’ve got a musical vision you’d like help realizing, please reach out– I’d love to discuss your project with you to explore if we’d be well suited to working together. Come join the family at Benny’s Wash & Dry!
Remembering Ndugu: A musical send-off for one of the greatest drummers ever.
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
Studio Update 2017-18
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
Mercury and the Architects – concept album and puzzle website.
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!
Jonathan Coulton’s “Solid State”
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?
Ditmas Park Corner Interview
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.
What’s New? (And haven’t I read about it 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.