Voted 'Rising Star' flutist in Downbeat Magazine's 62nd Annual Critics Poll

Bryant Park June 15th and other delights... 

Dear family, friends and colleagues,

I am way past due sending out an update on all things musical. Lots going on this spring and summer (!) but I thought I would focus on an upcoming event: The Ben Kono Group will be a featured ensemble at the Bryant Park New Music Festival on June 15th from 4:30-10pm. This concert features works commissioned by Chamber Music America and will be the closing concert of it's 2015 season. We will be performing our 2013 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works commission “Don't Blink” and I'm excited to be playing along five other grantees, including two of my musical heroes Donny McCaslin and Don Byron, both of whom will be leading their own respective ensembles. The concert is free and open to all ages in one of the most beautiful settings in New York City, and I hope to see you there.

In other news, the BKG recorded our commission “Don't Blink” in February and will be doing some final mixing soon. I'm pretty stoked about how it sounds! Thanks to Pete, Henry, Kermit and Satoshi for the incredible playing, Paul Wickliff for getting great sounds and keeping the session moving, and to my brother Simon for capturing the moment on film. Here's a sneak preview of what's in store:

If you can't catch us in Bryant Park, perhaps you'll come hear us in a lovely garden concert at The Hopper House in Nyack, NY. We'll be playing there Thursday evening August 13th at 7:30pm at one of my favorite places to hear music, the home of iconic American artist Ed Hopper in my hometown of Nyack on the Hudson. It's a perfect place to bring family and friends and enjoy an evening outdoors.

Other upcoming events you may want to see:

June 6 at 7pm. , The Falcon Marlboro, NY

Ed Palermo Big Band presents The Wizard of Zodd featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock. The ultimate mashup of Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren wrapped up in a twisted pageant based on the Wizard of Oz. I've been a member of Ed's band for fifteen years—you won't want to miss this one!

June 10 at 8pm. Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will be celebrating the release on Sunnyside Records of “Songs We Like a Lot”, the sequel to the Grammy-nominated album “Songs I Like a Lot”. We will also be performing at the Newport Jazz Festival July 31st if you happen to be attending.

June 25 at 7:30pm. Christ and St.Stephens Episcopal Church, 120 W.69th St., New York, NY

27th Annual BMI Jazz Composers Workshop Concert

That's right: 27 years of cutting edge big band music premiers, the last fifteen of which I've been a proud participant. And unfortunately this will be the last one, so make sure to see this if you can. If you want to know more about the history of this incredibly influential workshop and it's future, you can visit this site and join in the conversation:

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you at one of these events! If you have any comments drop me a line or visit, would love to hear from you.


Musically yours,



"Don't Blink" is in the can! 

Whoo hoo! The Ben Kono Group had a great two days at Paul Wickliffe's studio in Hampton, NJ recording the complete suite "Don't Blink", commissioned by Chamber Music America: New Jazz Works Grant and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The peaceful rural environment (including a family of deer!) stoked our creative energies and we have something we think you'll find very different and rewarding to listen to. Thanks to the band--Pete, Henry, Satoshi, and Kermit--for making the long hall, and to Paul for getting us great sounds. Special thanks to Henry for the three-flight walkup in the East Village with a newly restored vintage Fender Rhodes--the sound was worth it!

Shapeshifting, Mixing, Relaxing, and RIsing in July 

Thanks to everybody who came out to our second installment of "Don't Blink: A CMA New Jazz Works Commission" at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn last month, and hope you are all enjoying the summer! We seem to have escaped the 'dog days' here out east but, returning from a family trip out west, I can attest that California is indeed in the midst of a terrible drought. I spent a good many hours chilling in my mother-in-law's 'swamp cooler' mixing the multitrack recording of our concert while my daughter played in the pool under the baking sun. Nothing like mixing a record to get intimate with your bandmates! Thanks to Kermit Driscoll, Satoshi Takeishi, Pete McCann and Mike Holober for some slamming performances. I hope to post the mixed and edited performances on this site very soon. I should also mention what a great experience it was to perform at Shapeshifter Lab, they are very artist-friendly, provide some nice services like recording and video, and the tech crew make things much easier when you're running around madly trying to set things up. Thanks so much to Fortuna Sung, Matthew Garrison, and "Kiwi" for making that happen, and to my good friend JC Sanford for sharing the bill.

Nice to 'exhale' after a lot of hard work this spring. Sometimes, though, a little surprise can come out of the blue. In perusing the August issue of DownBeat Magazine, I noticed my name in the "Rising Star: flute" category of the annual critics' poll! I'm not sure how these things work, but it's nice to see my name alongside Sam Most and Kent Jordan, although honestly I should think they would be in the "established artist" category. Anyway, regardless of what you think of polls (obviously there are many omissions) "Rising Star" is better than "Sinking Stone" and congrats to all those whose contributions were noticed (including longtime friend and Ben Kono Group member Henry Hey).

Coming up: New recording sessions and concerts planned for Ed Palermo Big Band, Chris Zuar, and a concert in Israel with saxophonist Eli Degibri. Happy summer to you!

Nineteen-Eight Holiday Sale and end-of-year wrap-up 

Hello friends, and seasons' greetings!

In the spirit of the season, the good folks over at Nineteen-Eight Records are offering a sweet deal on all of their records, including "Crossing" released this year by your's truly. For a limited time only, they are offering every single cd in their catalog for only $7 each. This special holiday pricing will last through the rest of December only and will end on January first. You can see the limited-time pricing adjusted on each artist page. This pricing only applies to physical CDs and is only available at Nineteen-Eight. If you already have "Crossing", perhaps you know some else who may enjoy it (…just saying'…!) or perhaps check out some of the other fantastic releases from this year. Either way, can't go wrong with great music!

"Crossing" has had some fine reviews over the year including some recent end-of-the-year press:

'CROSSING' TOP DEBUT ALBUM OF 2011--Jazz Journalists Association

BEST OF 2011

"The first time I listened to "Crossing" (Nineteen-Eight), the debut CD by multi-reed player Ben Kono, the music stopped me cold. Not only does Kono play a slew of instruments (oboe, english horn, flute, alto flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone and shakuhachi), his compositions and arrangements are strikingly good. Supported by the rhythm section of John Hollenbeck (drums) and John Hebert (bass) plus the fine keyboard work of Henry Hey and soaring electric guitar of Pete McCann (his acoustic work is also excellent), Kono creates an aural auto-biography that is as moving as it is musical. His wife, Heather Laws, adds vocals and french horn to several tracks. What a debut!"--Step Tempest


"Kono is one of the stal­wart ses­sion men on the New York scene, from Broad­way to the stel­lar big bands of Darcy James Argue and John Hol­len­beck. His ver­sa­til­ity as a player comes through on Cross­ing in a rich range of musi­cal think­ing; all the pieces are his own, and his writ­ing makes excel­lent use of word­less voice, french horn, and his own ter­rific flute and double-reed play­ing. His writ­ing makes the band, with Heather Laws the afore­men­tioned singer/horn player, Henry Hey on piano, gui­tarist Pete McCann, John Hébert on bass and drum­mer Hol­len­beck, sound enor­mous. The musi­cal ideas come out of the con­tem­po­rary legacy of sophis­ti­cated, inter­na­tion­ally tinged jazz com­po­si­tion and orches­tra­tion, make use of the best lessons from the likes of Pat Metheny as well as his own col­leagues. Kono places an empha­sis on melody, and is a real crafts­man, shift­ing his lovely lines through dif­fer­ent tex­tures and har­monies, com­bin­ing sec­tions that seem like bits of songs into larger forms and never los­ing track of where he has come from and where he is going."--The Big City Blog

Looking forward to some great things in 2012 and I hope to see you at some of them! Thanks for listening and for your continued support, I wish you all the best for the holidays and the new year.

Ben Kono Group at Shapeshifter Lab, 6/24/14

Ben Kono Group: Simon and the Monk/River of Fire

Previous events


Ben Kono Group

Edward Hopper House, 82 North Broadway, Nyack, NY

As part of Hopper House Music in the Garden Jazz series, BKG will play music from newly recorded commissioned work "Don't Blink".

suggested donation Age limit: All ages



Ben Kono Group

 —  —

Charlestown Road Studio

BKG records "Don't Blink", funded by CMA:New Jazz Works and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation


Ben Kono Group

Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Ben Kono-woodwinds and composition; Pete McCann-guitar; Henry Hey-piano and fender rhodes; Kermit Driscoll-bass; Satoshi Takeishi-drums and percussion

double-bill with Jessica Jones Quartet:

Stomu Takeishi - bass Kenny Wollesen - drums Tony Jones - tenor sax Jessica Jones- tenor sax




Ed Palermo Big Band presents "ZODD ZUNDGREN"

The Falcon, 1348 Rt.9W, Marlboro, NY

The world's zaniest big band honors and mashes the music of Todd Rungren and Frank Zappa.




Ed Palermo Big Band

Iridium, 1650 Broadway (51st) , New York, NY 10019

Ed Palermo Big Band presents: ZODD ZUNDGREN-a mash-up concert of the music of Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock.




Ben Kono Group

Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215 ph:(646) 820-9452

Ben Kono: woodwinds, composition

Pete McCann: guitar

Mike Holober: piano

Kermit Driscoll: bass

Satoshi Takeishi: drums and percussion

Double-bill with JC Sanford Orchestra. Playing newly commissioned music and some selections from our CD "Crossing".


Ben Kono Group

Cornelia Street Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street , New York, NY 10014 Phone: 212-989-9319

Ben Kono: woodwinds, composition

Pete McCann: guitar

Henry Hey: piano

Kermit Driscoll: bass

Satoshi Takeishi: drums and percussion

The Ben Kono Group returns to the Cornelia Street Cafe and presents a new body of work commissioned by Chamber Music America New Jazz Works/Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in a world premiere performance. Project "Don't Blink" is an extended suite written for multiple woodwinds and jazz quintet tracing the composer's personal reflections on humanity's sometimes comical, often destructive, relationship with the environment. The Group's CD "Crossing" garnered some well-earned praise, placing it in the top ten of the Jazz Journalists Association's debut albums of 2011, and the new work capitalizes on the extraordinary breadth of color and imaginative improvising these world class musicians are capable of sharing.

"Mr. Kono, a versatile woodwinds specialist — he’ll play tenor saxophone, clarinets, flutes and oboe here, along with English horn — has a gleaming new album, “Crossing” (Nineteen-Eight), that establishes his style as a bandleader-composer: cosmopolitan and unflappable, with a feel for rallying his sidemen."--Nate Chinen, The New York Times, Feb.17, 2011

"An overpoweringly great record!"--Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times

$10 plus $10 minimum. Reservations strongly suggested.