Please join my mailing list for upcoming appearances and masterclasses!

'Voyages' is "in the can!" 

We had a wonderful two days recording our Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant project Voyages at Big Orange Sheep studios in Brooklyn Aug.16-17th following our performance at ShapeShifter Lab on the 14th. Many thanks to Pete, Mike, Matt, Jared, Sara, Meg, Lois and Jody for incredible performances, to Chris Benham for engineering, and to my long-time friend Henry Hey for producing in the control room. Can't wait to share this music with the world!

'Voyages' premier video 

Hey all, since it doesn't look like we'll be getting out there any time soon, I thought I'd share some video from Ben Kono Group's most recent project: Voyages. This was a suite of compositions commissioned by Chamber Music America New Jazz Works and we premiered it at Jazz Forum in Tarrytown, and again at Greenwich House in NYC this past December. Inspired by the writings of my grandfather Juhei Kono it traces our family's transition from Japan to America and features my quintet augmented by some very special friends on strings. The first installment of these is called "Bata Kusai!!", a rather colorful phrase my grandfather used to describe his first taste of American food and culture when he was summoned over to work on a farm, and I wrote it to feature the amazing Sara Caswell on violin. Hope you enjoy! 

Ben Kono Group premiere of "Bata Kusai!!" from "Voyages" suite, commissioned by Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant at Renee Weiler Concert Hall, NYC Dec.18, 2019. 

Ben Kono, tenor saxophone and composition 
Pete McCann, guitar 
Mike Holober, piano 
Matt Clohesy, bass 
Jared Schonig, drums 
Sara Caswell, violin 
Meg Okura, violin 
Lois Martin, viola 
Jody Redhage Ferber, cello

"Don't Blink" featured in Chamber Music Magazine Fall 2020 issue 

Many thanks to Chamber Music Magazine for featuring my CMA grant project "Don't Blink" in their Fall 2020 issue, and to the musicians who have kept this project going over the years: Henry Hey, Pete McCann, Kermit Driscoll, Satoshi Takeishi, Mike Holober, Jared Schonig, and Matt Clohesy. Looking forward to a time when we can continue presenting this music live again!

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!

Previous events

Ben Kono Group presents "Voyages"

Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Pl, Brooklyn, NY

Please join us LIVE and LIVE STREAMED for our first appearance since December 2019! We will be presenting our 2018 Chamber Music America commission "Voyages" for jazz quintet and string quartet at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn before going into the studio to record our work. I couldn't be more excited! "Voyages" is:

Ben Kono, woodwinds and composition Pete McCann, guitar Mike Holober, piano Jared Schonig, drums Matt Clohesy, bass Sara Caswell, violin Meg Okura, violin Lois Martin, viola Jody Redhage Ferber, cello

Sep24

Ben Kono Group

Hopper House Museum, 82 North Broadway, Nyack, NY

A rare live performance in the time of COVID-19! Only 40 tickets being sold so reserve now! With Pete McCann (guitar), Mike Holober (piano), Jared Schonig (drums), Dan Loomis (bass), and yours truly on tenor sax and flutes. Music from 2018 CMA commission "Voyages" as well as some tributes to Coltrane and Rollins. Tickets $10 members and $25 non-members, weather permitting. Hope to see you there!

Mar28

Ambrose Akinmusire 'Banyan Project'

Jazz at Lincoln Center/Rose Hall, 60th/Broadway, New York, NY

Ambrose Akinmusire Leads Big Band and Special Guests Jack Dejohnette, Tom Harrell and Gary Bartz In Jazz at Lincoln Center’s The Appel Room

March 27-28 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

New York, NY (January 30, 2020) – On March 27-28 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in The Appel Room, acclaimed trumpeter and composer, Ambrose Akinmusire will make his Jazz at Lincoln Center debut as a headliner to perform his extended Banyan suite for the first time in NYC, while leading an all-star large ensemble featuring special guests drummer Jack DeJohnette, trumpeter Tom Harrelland saxophonist Gary Bartz.

The Appel Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall is located at Broadway at 60th Street, New York, NY.

Akinmusire is one of today’s hottest trumpeters, with his ability as a composer to create new musical worlds with each of his various projects. He aspires to create richly textured, emotionally resonant landscapes that tell the stories of the community and record the time. As a highly skilled musician and bandleader, he brings truth to the notion that music alone can be as immersive and transportive as any art form.

According to the New Yorker, Akinmusire is “a thrilling young trumpeter and astute bandleader [with a] unique spark in his playing”.

In his Jazz at Lincoln Center debut as a headliner, Akinmusire will perform, for the first time in New York City, his extended composition, banyan, exemplifying jazz as a living continuum and bringing together generations of distinctive voices through new music, with living legends Jack DeJohnette, Gary Bartz, and Tom Harrell on board, as well as established jazz artists Sullivan Fortner, Matt Brewer,Marcus Gilmore, Walter Smith III, Marvin Sewell and more. The powerful, original suite of music explores the role of mentorship in the oraland aural traditions of society and jazz and first premiered at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in 2015.

Banyan features the below artists:

Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet Special Guests: Gary Bartz, alto sax, Tom Harrell, Trumpet, Jack DeJohnette, drums All Compositions by Ambrose Akinmusire Arrangements: Jim McNeely

Roman Filiu, alto sax Caroline Davis, alto sax Walter Smith , tenor sax Ben Kono, tenor sax Dayna Stephens, baritone sax

Frank Greene, trumpet Dave Ballou, trumpet Stéphane Clément, trumpet

Ryan Keberle, trombone Earl McIntyre, trombone Kalia Vendever, trombone

Marvin Sewell, guitar Sullivan Fortner, piano Matt Brewer, bass Marcus Gilmore, drums

A pre-concert discussion will take place one hour prior to each show at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit jazz.org. For more information on Ambrose Akinmusire, please visit ambroseakinmusire.com.

Mar27

Ambrose Akinmusire 'Banyan Project'

Jazz at Lincoln Center/Rose Hall, 60th St./Broadway, New York, NY

Ambrose Akinmusire Leads Big Band and Special Guests Jack Dejohnette, Tom Harrell and Gary Bartz In Jazz at Lincoln Center’s The Appel Room

March 27-28 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

New York, NY (January 30, 2020) – On March 27-28 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in The Appel Room, acclaimed trumpeter and composer, Ambrose Akinmusire will make his Jazz at Lincoln Center debut as a headliner to perform his extended Banyan suite for the first time in NYC, while leading an all-star large ensemble featuring special guests drummer Jack DeJohnette, trumpeter Tom Harrelland saxophonist Gary Bartz.

The Appel Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall is located at Broadway at 60th Street, New York, NY.

Akinmusire is one of today’s hottest trumpeters, with his ability as a composer to create new musical worlds with each of his various projects. He aspires to create richly textured, emotionally resonant landscapes that tell the stories of the community and record the time. As a highly skilled musician and bandleader, he brings truth to the notion that music alone can be as immersive and transportive as any art form.

According to the New Yorker, Akinmusire is “a thrilling young trumpeter and astute bandleader [with a] unique spark in his playing”.

In his Jazz at Lincoln Center debut as a headliner, Akinmusire will perform, for the first time in New York City, his extended composition, banyan, exemplifying jazz as a living continuum and bringing together generations of distinctive voices through new music, with living legends Jack DeJohnette, Gary Bartz, and Tom Harrell on board, as well as established jazz artists Sullivan Fortner, Matt Brewer,Marcus Gilmore, Walter Smith III, Marvin Sewell and more. The powerful, original suite of music explores the role of mentorship in the oraland aural traditions of society and jazz and first premiered at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in 2015.

Banyan features the below artists:

Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet Special Guests: Gary Bartz, alto sax, Tom Harrell, Trumpet, Jack DeJohnette, drums All Compositions by Ambrose Akinmusire Arrangements: Jim McNeely

Roman Filiu, alto sax Caroline Davis, alto sax Walter Smith , tenor sax Ben Kono, tenor sax Dayna Stephens, baritone sax

Frank Greene, trumpet Dave Ballou, trumpet Stéphane Clément, trumpet

Ryan Keberle, trombone Earl McIntyre, trombone Kalia Vendever, trombone

Marvin Sewell, guitar Sullivan Fortner, piano Matt Brewer, bass Marcus Gilmore, drums

A pre-concert discussion will take place one hour prior to each show at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit jazz.org. For more information on Ambrose Akinmusire, please visit ambroseakinmusire.com.

Feb15

McBride Commission Concert: Jihye Lee and the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble

Amherst College, Amherst, MA

The Amherst College Jazz Ensemble and the Jihye Jazz Orchestra perform Lee’s new work, "Try Out," for the McBride Jazz Commission Series on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall, Arms Music Center, on the Amherst College campus.

Admission is free; no tickets are required. Donations to benefit the Amherst Survival Center will be gratefully accepted.

This year’s composer of the 16th composition in the Jazz Commission Series is New York City-based Jihye Lee. Her 13-piece Jazz Orchestra performs her new work "Try Out," and the ACJE performs music from Les Hooper, Gil Evans and Peter Pan.

Dec18

Ben Kono Group Chamber Music America Commission NYC Premiere of "Voyages" Suite

Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street , New York, NY 10014

NYC premiere of "Voyages" for jazz quintet and string quartet, commissioned by 2018 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant and funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The narrative of the suite is inspired by the writings of Rev.Juhei Caleb Kono who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan during a very turbulent time for Asian Americans in this country, and who faced unique cultural, political and economic challenges. The ensemble will feature Kono's long-standing quintet augmented with a stellar string quartet:

Ben Kono, woodwinds/composition; Pete McCann, guitar; Mike Holober, piano; Matt Clohesy, bass; Jared Schonig, drums; Sara Caswell, violin; Meg Okura, violin; Lois Martin, viola; Jody Redhage Ferber, cello

Tickets are $15/$10 with student ID at the door

Dec15

Ben Kono Group Chamber Music America Commission World Premiere of "Voyages" Suite

Jazz Forum, 1 Dixon Lane , Tarrytown, NY 10591

World premiere of "Voyages" for jazz quintet and string quartet, commissioned by 2018 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant and funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The narrative of the suite is inspired by the writings of Rev.Juhei Caleb Kono who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan during a very turbulent time for Asian Americans in this country, and who faced unique cultural, political and economic challenges. The ensemble will feature Kono's long-standing quintet augmented with a stellar string quartet:

Ben Kono, woodwinds/composition; Pete McCann, guitar; Mike Holober, piano; Matt Clohesy, bass; Jared Schonig, drums; Sara Caswell, violin; Meg Okura, violin; Lois Martin, viola; Jody Redhage Ferber, cello

Tickets are $15 students+seniors/$20 adults

Nov11

Pete McCann Quartet Midwest Tour

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Jun12

BMI Jazz Composers Workshop Concert

May5

Ben Kono

 —  —

Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th Street , New York, NY

Reeds Ben Kono Alejandro Aviles Quinsin Nachoff Sam Dillon Carl Maraghi

Trombone John Mosca Jason Jackson Jennifer Wharton Douglas Purviance

Trumpet Dan Urness David Smith Matt Holman Nadje Noordhuis

Guitar Pete McCann Bass Evan Gregor Drums Jared Schonig

Apr27

w/Jim McNeely Tentet@Wesleyan University

Crowell Concert Hall, Wesleyan University, 50 Wyllys Avenue , Middletown, CT 06459

$28 general public; $26 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students, youth under 18

"Jim McNeely is a true composer. He...produces works for jazz ensemble that are highly original and technically sophisticated." —JazzTimes

GRAMMY Award-winning pianist/composer Jim McNeely has performed with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra), the Stan Getz Quartet, the Phil Woods Quintet, Bob Brookmeyer, and David Liebman, among other artists. The New York Times has called his writing "exhilarating," and DownBeat has said that his music is "eloquent enough to be profound." At Wesleyan, his acclaimed ten-piece jazz ensemble will perform a selection of music from their album Group Therapy during their New England debut.

This event is part of the 18th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend, which includes a free performance by the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra and Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble on Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.