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

Summer Newsletter, Music Mountain 

Dear Friends, 

I hope you are having an enjoyable summer! The family and I just returned from a truly inspiring tour of our national and state parks on the west coast for a long awaited getaway. Highlights included camping among the California redwood giants of Jedediah Smith State Park; wandering through Sahara-like sand dunes of Oregon’s coast; and hiking among the glaciers and marmots of Mt.Rainier in Washington. If you get a chance to do so, I highly recommend spending some time immersing yourself in nature away from home. It doesn’t have to be exotic, just far enough from the city so you can see the stars at night and hear the birds over the sound of trains and automobiles! Our country’s natural environment is a treasure that never ceases to inspire me, and now more than ever it’s crucial to remind ourselves why we need to take action and protect these special places. 

This spring I had the pleasure of taking the Ben Kono Group to Joplin, Missouri and presenting our environmental jazz suite “Don’t Blink” as part of the revered Pro Musica Chamber Music series. I must admit that, during our drive from the airport in Arkansas to our hotel in Joplin, I was a bit apprehensive about the reception of our message as we passed mile after mile of fracking fields and gas refineries. As it turned out, not only was our performance well received, but there was an overwhelming positive response to our message concerning the fragility of our environment, and it seemed to strike a particular nerve with that community. Thanks to Bonnie Yetter for all the careful planning and warm hospitality given to us on our visit, she is a great advocate for the arts in Joplin! And of course thanks to Henry Hey, Pete McCann, Matt Clohesy and Ross Pederson for bringing their incredible musical expertise and positive energy to the gig. They are the best of the best! 

If you happen to be on the east coast, we now present this same program at Music Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Falls Village, CT on Saturday August 5th at 6:30 as part of their Twilight Series performances. Music Mountain is the oldest summer chamber music festival in the country and has one of the finest sounding acoustic spaces around. Tickets are $30 for the concert only, or there is a pre-concert theme dinner option at Falls Village Inn for $70 if you want to make a night of it. If you are in the Berkshires area we would love to see you there! Visit dontblinkmusic.org for a preview of the music we will be playing. 

In other news this summer, I spent June recording some amazing new music with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble—our third album with this band; a new recording of wind ensemble music with Gotham Winds; a CD release concert for Korean jazz composer Hyeseon Hong; and, coming up in August, the debut recording of Japanese jazz composer Migiwa Miyajima and her most excellent jazz orchestra. Jazz and camping, what a great way to spend the summer!

April newsletter: Earth Day, Peoples Climate March, Midwest Tour, and a new Music Video 

This weekend was Earth Day and our family celebrated by planting trees on our street, pulling some junk out of the Hudson River, and celebrating nature with friends outside on a beautiful spring day. I also dabbled in some film production, and so I present to you a new music video for the Ben Kono Group’s upcoming release “Don’t Blink”. The piece is entitled “Passenger” and was written to commemorate the centenary passing of the last passenger pigeon over a hundred years ago. I hope you enjoy! 

This coming weekend marks another opportunity to voice our appreciation and concern for the environment. In Washington DC and around the country this Saturday April 29th citizens will be coming together at the Peoples Climate March to voice their concerns over our global climate change. During this tumultuous period of environmental crisis it is more important than ever to voice our opposition to those who would undo the progress made to better our earth, and to draw attention to the effect our footprint has on the health of our planet. 

Rather than heading to DC, however, I’m taking the Ben Kono Group to the midwest to do our part in spreading the word! I am very excited to be partnering with Pro Musica in Joplin, Missouri to present our environmental suite “Don’t Blink” this Saturday April 29th at Missouri Southern State University as part of their chamber music series. We will be presenting a masterclass open to the public at Corley Auditorium from 1-2pm, then the concert at 7:30pm. If you or anyone you know resides in the Joplin area and would be interested in attending, please pass along this information, we’d love to meet you! 

If you don’t know about our project “Don’t Blink”, you can read all about it at www.dontblinkmusic.org. The work is a commentary on our relationship with the environment as seen through the lens of my own personal path towards environmental activism. It was commissioned by the Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Commissioning and Ensemble Development Grant, and you can preview the music and read the story on our website. 

For those of you who can't travel to Joplin to hear us, we will be appearing later this summer at the Music Mountain Twilight Series in western Connecticut, and we will be releasing the complete recording soon via Bandcamp, iTunes, CD Baby and all your favorite music outlets, so visit www.benkono.com for updates!

Ben Kono Group featured in Chamber Music Magazine: "Reflecting a Planet in Peril" 

I'm proud to be featured in a story that appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Chamber Music Magazine: "Reflecting a Planet in Peril". Writer Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone produced a well-written piece based on interviews with chamber groups who reflect an ethos of environmental activism in their work, and the Ben Kono Group's recent project "Don't Blink" was well-represented. Thank you Nicole and all the featured groups for doing justice to a great cause! You can read the article in its' entirety here:

Reflecting a Planet in Peril

Ben Kono Group performs CMA Commission 'Don't Blink' at Chamber Music America 2016 National Conference 

Dear Fellow Conference Attendee, 

We are excited to present our showcase this evening and would love to see you there! The Ben Kono Group will be presenting excerpts from their 2013 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works commission DON"T BLINK. 

FRIDAY JANUARY 8, 5:00PM 
WESTIN NEW YORK AT TIMES SQUARE 
MAJESTIC BALLROOM 5TH FLOOR 

The Ben Kono Group is: 

Ben Kono; woodwinds and compostion 
Pete McCann; guitar 
Mike Holober; piano 
Matt Clohesy; bass 
Satoshi Takeishi; drums 

Please come by to listen, we would love to meet you and chat with you after the performance!

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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/593463090756480/

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 benkono.com, would love to hear from you.

 

Musically yours,

Ben

 

"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!

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

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

Previous events

Oct16

Numinous premiere: The Grey Land

Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue (Entrance at the corner of 3rd Avenue) , Brooklyn, NY 11217

The Grey Land is a monoopera that explores universal themes of humanity and identity through the intractable triumvirate of race, class, and power in American society. The Grey Land will integrate a variety of writings, archival and contemporary video footage, dance, set and lighting designs, as well as dramatic elements in order to advance a non-traditional narrative that will embrace the musical and social multitudes and “dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation” within black culture, fusing various African-American and other popular music influences within a contemporary post-classical musical language. Working with writer/director Isaac Butler, choreographer Edisa Weeks, electronic musician Michael Hammond, film and video artist Malik Isasis and Xuan Zhang, The Grey Land will ruminate and comment more specifically on the larger longstanding systemic societal, economic and cultural issues the various police shootings and protests since 2014 have brought to a wider public consciousness. The composition is scored for 1 Mezzo Soprano Soloist, 1 Narrator/Speaker and the 26 musicians of Numinous, approximately 65 minutes in length and eventually recorded for New Amsterdam Records after the premiere.

Aug3

Miggy Miyajima Big Band recording

 —  —

Sear Sound Recording Studios, New York, NY

Apr29

Ben Kono Group@Pro Musica Joplin, MO

Corley Auditorium, Missouri Southern State University, 3950 Newman Rd, Joplin, MO 64801

http://promusicajoplin.org/

The Group features long-time musical collaborators Henry Hey on piano and Fender Rhodes, Pete McCann on guitars, Ross Pederson on drums, Matt Clohesy on bass, and . In 2013 Kono was awarded the Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Commissioning and Ensemble Development Grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to write and premier a suite for the Group entitled DON’T BLINK.

The appearance of the Ben Kono Group in Joplin is sponsored, in part, by Annette Thurston and Charles Keeter.

While in Joplin the Ben Kono Group will present a clinic for jazz students at MSSU and area high schools at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, 4/29/17. The public is invited to attend the clinic.

Tickets: $10 adults, $5 students. Tickets can be purchased online (click on the Tickets section of this website) or from the Pro Musica office, 9:00-1:00 (call first 625-1822).