Since moving to New York City in 1999, woodwind specialist Ben Kono has been attracting attention as a singular emerging voice in cutting-edge groups like Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. With the release of two critically acclaimed recordings CROSSING (2011) and DON'T BLINK (2019) and two Chamber Music America grants, he has now secured his place as a leader and composer of note among his peers.
While growing up in bucolic southern Vermont, a deep love of classical music was fostered by his parent's strong advocacy of the arts and spurred on by a community rich in culture, live music, and arts awareness. Local jazz guitar legend and educator Attilla Zoller awakened in Ben an intense interest in jazz, emboldening him to continue studies at the Eastman School of Music and the University of North Texas. During this time he met future musical pioneers John Hollenbeck, Henry Hey, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, and studied with jazz greats David Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi, Bill Dobbins and Gary Cambell.
Following a five-year hitch with the U.S.Army's elite touring group the Jazz Ambassadors, Kono's broad musical training and experience naturally led him to the infinitely varied musical landscape of New York City. Equally skilled on oboe, english horn, flutes, clarinets and saxophones, his wide range of skills and prowess as an improviser quickly garnered high demand as a sideman. He has performed and recorded with, among many others, Michael Brecker, David Liebman, Bob Berg, Kenny Wheeler, Toots Thielmans, Michel LeGrand, Tim Garland, Joe Locke, Andrew Rathbun, Manuel Valera, Pete McCann, Bill Stewart, Donny McCaslin and David Taylor; with superstars Patti Austin, Deborah Gibson, Hugh Jackman, Liza Minelli, Natalie Cole and Johnny Mathis; and is a member of the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, the Ed Palermo Big Band, Gotham Winds, the BMI Jazz Composers Orchestra, the New York Jazzharmonic, and the performed the entire eleven-year run of Jersey Boys on Broadway. The eloquent sounds of his woodwinds have graced the stages of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and he can often be heard tearing up a solo at elite jazz venues like the Blue Note, the Jazz Standard, Birdland, and Le Poisson Rouge.