Some of you know I have been working on a new opera production this past year. I’m excited to announce that “Fractured Mosaics,” a virtual opera that asks what it means to be Asian American will be presented by @White Snake Projects March 30 - April 3 online! It’s been a thrill to work with librettist Cerise Jacobs, the wonderful singers and a terrific creative team. I will be one of five featured composers contributing to this unique opera cycle. Get tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fractured-mosaics-a-virtual-opera-tickets-508028495907 or visit https://www.whitesnakeprojects.org/projects/fractured-mosaics/ for more information.
Hello all! Here's a link to a recent interview with Craig Hurst on his wonderful podcast "The Musical Universe of Professor Hurst" where we discussed everything from compositional process to music education. He has a wide range of interviews and it's been enjoyable to see what others' have to say about the state of music across a breadth of disciplines and styles. Hope you enjoy!
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!
Very special thanks to ISJAC for allowing me to post the Ben Kono Group's latest project 'Voyages' in their Artist Blog!
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
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!
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!
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!