Award-winning jazz pianist, composer and accordionist Ben Rosenblum has been described as "mature beyond his years," (Jon Neudorf, Sea of Tranquility), and as an "impressive talent" (C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz), who "caresses [the music] with the reverence it merits" (Bob Doerschuk, Downbeat Magazine). Ben is based primarily in New York City, and is a graduate of the Columbia-Juilliard program (in 2016). His original music combines his extensive knowledge of the history of jazz with a free-wheeling, modern melodic sensibility and powerful narrative approach to the piano. His profound passion for jazz, swing and world music genres finds expression in his unique fusion of harmonic and rhythmic elements from a wide array of sources, and gives rise to a signature compositional sound and style at once iconoclastic and deeply rooted in such figures as Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly. Ben's first priority in his composition and in his playing is always narrative – to tell a compelling story with his music, while reaching the hearts of his audience, connecting on an emotional, an intellectual and a spiritual level.
Reviewers of his debut album Instead – released in 2017 with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Billy Hart – have been impressed by his musicality and his tasteful playing in light of his immense technical skill. Bob Doerschuk of Downbeat Magazine gave the album four stars, and wrote, "He has the chops to shoot off a few fireworks, … but that doesn't seem to be a priority when covering sacred material." C. Michael Bailey notes approvingly: "there do emerge conservatoire aces with grit in their imagination and a facility to express such in their playing. Ben Rosenblum is one such performer/composer. The Julliard-Columbia trained pianist brings a freighter of technique to the keyboard, while still maintaining enough earthiness in his playing to satisfy even the fussiest listener." Fred Stal of RG Magazine most recently described his experience of listening to Ben's live CD release performance: "The music keeps you on your feet and not wanting to miss a single moment of magic. ... Raindrops from heaven poured down with style and grace from Rosenblum's piano."
Since the release of Ben's debut album, Ben has been touring regularly – both nationally and internationally – celebrating the album and collaborating with artists around the world. Ben's trio made debuts in Japan and in Canada in 2018. During his two-week tour of Japan, Ben performed in eight different cities, including in Tokyo at Akasaka B-flat, and in Yokohama at Himawari-no-sato Concert Hall with famed koto player Yuko Watanabe. Highlights of his Canada tour included appearances at Upstairs Jazz in Montreal, Maelstrom and Bar Ste-Angele in Quebec City and the Southminster "Doors Open For Music" Concert Series in Ottawa. In the United States, Ben has traveled extensively throughout the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, with trips planned for the South and Southwest. These domestic tours have featured performances at some of the most well-respected venues in the country, including Kuumbwa Jazz Center (Santa Cruz), Ravinia (Chicago), Cliff Bells (Detroit), An Die Musik (Baltimore), The Bop Stop (Cleveland), Mezzrow (New York City) and many others. As a sideman, Ben has had further opportunities to tour the world. In 2018, he traveled for three weeks through Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Serbia with Astrid Kuljanic, during which the group performed at multiple festivals, including the Ljeto na Bundeka Festival in Zagreb and the Soboško Poletje Festival in Murska Sobota. He also performed for two nights at the Blue Note in Beijing alongside famed jazz singer Deborah Davis. In 2019, Ben made his trio debut in Europe, playing at the famed Bird's Eye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland, among other performances.
Born and raised in New York City, Ben had the opportunity to study with some of the most influential figures in jazz piano, including Frank Kimbrough, Bruce Barth, Ben Waltzer and Roy Assaf. At the early age of sixteen, the originality of his work was already being recognized with numerous awards, including the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award (2010), the Downbeat Student Music Award for Best Original Song (2010) and the Downbeat Student Music Award for Best Arrangement (2011). As a result, even before entering Columbia, Ben was commissioned by the XIBUS World Orchestra to write a piece for performance at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in 2012. Ben has continued to earn numerous distinctions and honors in recent years. In 2015, he was a finalist at the American Jazz Pianist Competition in Melbourne, Florida, and in 2016, at the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida. In 2018, he earned further recognition from the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award competition in the form of an honorable mention, and he was featured at the ASCAP Foundation's 2018 "We Write The Songs" event at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
In addition to his own work, Ben often collaborates with other musicians. He has worked extensively with Grammy-nominated singer Ryland Angel on several compositional projects, including the project Unspoken, which premiered at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and The Call featuring guitarist Nels Cline and percussionist Alex Cline, which was debuted at the University of Minnesota's Ted Mann Hall. His debut album Instead has received very favorable reviews from a wide range of sources throughout the world, including Downbeat Magazine, All About Jazz, Drumset Magazine (Italy) and The Jazz Writer (Germany).
Ben performed with the Bachiana Brasileira Orchestra at Lincoln Center (conducted by Joao Carlos Martins and featuring Dave Brubeck), and he was a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium with the New York Harmonic Band (conducted by Reona Ito). He traveled to New Delhi, India, to perform at a Max India Benefit, and was a participant at Il Grande Veggio, in Perugia, Italy. He has played at the Masten Jazz Festival (Buffalo), the Richmond Jazz Festival (Richmond), the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (Maryland), Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival (Manhattan), the DUMBO Arts Festival (Brooklyn), Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA) and the Music Mountain Festival (Connecticut). He has also appeared at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, the Appel Room at Lincoln Center, Ryles Jazz Club, Webster Hall, Symphony Space, The Blue Note, Smoke, Smalls and a host of other music venues throughout the northeast.
Ben has worked extensively with such jazz luminaries as Curtis Lundy, Neal Smith, Winard Harper, Wayne Escoffery and Deborah Davis, and he has performed in bands led by Bobby Watson, TS Monk, Chris Washburne and Warren Wolf. In addition, he has shared the stage with many other jazz legends, including Wycliffe Gordon, Brian Lynch, Phil Woods, Houston Person, Jerry Dodgion, Eliot Zigmund, Clarence Penn, Craig Handy, Dave Stryker, Sean Jones, Ameen Saleem, Bob Nieske, Steve Nelson, Yasushi Nakamura, Essiet Essiet, Willie Williams, Patience Higgins, Josh Evans, Kenny Davis and Rogerio Boccato.
While at Columbia University, Ben founded the Columbia Jazz House, a student-run jazz advocacy group that promotes jazz on campus through concerts, educational workshops and jam sessions. On December 28th, 2015, the Columbia Jazz House was featured in a New York Times article titled "Melodies Night and Day in this Columbia Dorm." Since graduating, Ben has continued to work with students throughout the country, leading and co-leading workshops at Teacher's College at Columbia University, the College of Charleston, University of Tampa, Mount St. Joseph University, University of Minnesota and many other colleges and high-schools.
Ben Rosenblum doesn't just invite a diverse array of influences into his music. While his projects reflect his potent and deeply rooted point of view, the pianist, accordionist, composer and arranger positively thrives on a thrum of contrasting approaches. With Kites and Strings, his third album as a leader and the debut of the Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project, he's convened an exceptionally vivid cast of collaborators and provided them with a program of arrestingly beautiful pieces. Slated for release on October 16, 2020 via One Trick Dog, the album is the work of an artist who's found that his voice contains multitudes. Regularly employed by some of jazz's most revered masters, Rosenblum has already established a national profile as bandleader by logging thousands of miles on the road, playing some 100 gigs annually with his trio at clubs, theaters, schools and community centers, and relishing the opportunity to bring jazz into communities where fellow musicians rarely play.
Pianist, composer, band-leader and amazing jazz accordionist Ben Rosenblum doesn't just invite a diverse array of influences into his music. While his projects reflect his potent and deeply rooted point of view, the pianist, accordionist, composer and arranger positively thrives on a thrum of contrasting approaches. With Kites and Strings, his third album as a leader and the debut of the Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project, he's convened an exceptionally vivid cast of collaborators and provided them with a program of arrestingly beautiful pieces. Release via One Trick Dog, the album is the work of an artist who's found that his voice contains multitudes. Regularly employed by some of jazz's most revered masters, Rosenblum has already established a national profile as bandleader by logging thousands of miles on the road, playing some 100 gigs annually with his trio at clubs, theaters, schools and community centers, and relishing the opportunity to bring jazz into communities where fellow musicians rarely play.
Hilary from Harmonious World interviews BR to discuss 'Kites and Strings.' LISTEN
Expectations are necessarily guarded when preparing to appraise a recording by the Nebula Project whose leader plays accordion. Be that as it may, any such uneasiness is quickly erased by Ben Rosenblum and his doughty ensemble whose music is decidedly colorful, melodic and accessible-which is not meant to undervalue diversity, another of its discernible points. Rosenblum, who wrote seven of the album's ten numbers, draws on influences as varied as klezmer jazz, Bulgarian folk music and even Johannes Brahms to weave a richly colored tapestry whose purpose is to entice the listener's ears with its charm and contrast.
Kites and Strings is Rosenblum's third album as leader but his first as captain of the Nebula Project. Based on this smooth-sailing maiden voyage, a second cruise would seem to be more mandatory than elective.
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Listen to all the musical sounds around us; there are albums that push us into action, others that take us to new worlds, and others that plain bore us. Then, there's "comfort food" music, songs that make us smile, calm us down because the artist(s) is (are) so in sync and sound like that everyone is having such a good time. For his third album as a leader, pianist, accordionist, and composer Ben Rosenblum has expanded his trio (bassist Marty Jaffe and drummer Ben Zweig) to a sextet featuring Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Jasper Dutz (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), and Rafael Rosa (guitar), dubbing the group the Nebula Project.
"Kites and Strings" (self-released) features seven Rosenblum originals, one traditional Bulgarian song, and one song each by Leonard Bernstein ("Somewhere") and Neil Young ("Philadelphia", the 1993 movie with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington). The fast-paced "Cedar Place" opens the program with the trumpet, tenor sax, and accordion leading the rhythm section through the melody. The accordion may remind some of Gary Versace's work with the Maria Schneider Orchestra. The title songs also features Rosenblum's accordion and adds vibraphonist Jake Chapman to the mix. Solos by Chapman, Tucker, and the leader occur over the floating rhythm section––the music feels warm and comfortable. "Motif from Brahms (Op. 98)" is a lovey ballad; with the accordion on the melody, trumpet and clarinet for support plus fine piano work by guest pianist Jeremy Corren, the music deftly blends classical and jazz influences.
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Ben Rosenblum is a composer/arranger who has written eight of the ten songs on his third album release as a bandleader. "Kites & Strings" is the first album where he is featuring his arranger talents and his original compositions. They are songs he's been writing over the past ten years. The first tune, inspired by Cedar Walton's jazz standard, "Bolivia,"is developed from a propulsive bass line by Marty Jaffe. Once a chord vamp enters, Wayne Tucker lays down a catchy melody on his trumpet. The song, titled "Cedar Place," is presented in an up-tempo 7/4meter, where Rosenblum, on accordion, can dance freely.
You hear their camaraderie and individual talents throughout this production. There is Puerto Rican Guitarist, Rafael Rosa; trumpeter Wayne Tucker, borrowed from his recent tour with vocalist Cyrille Aimee. Wayne brings an R&B/hip hop groove to their bandstand. Woodwind player, Jasper Dutz, is classical-minded. Bassist, Marty Jaffe has been touring as part of Rosenblums' trio along with drummer Ben Zweig for several years. They cement the rhythm section like polished marble. The addition of Rosenblum's piano and composing skills, plus his accordion talents, bring a very European and Latin American texture to their contemporary musical arrangements.
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When I see an album cover that looks like this and has a title like this, the first thing that comes into my mind is, "Another goopy album of soft Millennial ‘jazz,'" but such is not the case here. Ben Rosenblum's little band swings nicely, if not with any particular style; they change meter here and there with impunity, and the solos are solid and often interesting, particularly those of trumpeter Wayne Tucker, who plays with a crisp, firm and rich tone, much like the late Fats Navarro (I wonder if Fats was one of his models).
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Ben Rosenblum plays both piano and accordion on this pastoral session with the blended horns of trumpeter Wayne Tucker, Jasper Dutz on tenor sax or bass clarinet, guitarist Rafael Rosa, bassist Marty Jaffe, drummer Ben Zweig and guests Jake Chapman/vib, Sam Chess/tb and Jeremy Corren/p. Chapman's vibes team with Tucker's horn on an Old World tango of a title track with added accordion atmosphere, with similar moods with Corren replacing Chapman on the European "Motif From Brahms". A fun tarantella with Tucker out in front gets you dancing on "Fight Or Flight" with the horns in gorgeous harmony on the elegiac "Bright Above Us" and the folk tune "Izpoved". The team takes a dreamy read of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" with Neil Young's "Philadelphia" a rich vehicle for Rosa and Chess. Sounds of the piazza.
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The Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project brings together an atypical group of musicians for an eclectic range of music on Kites and Strings: a magpie collection of excellently executed pieces stretching from 1800s classical to neo-classical jazz, via Venezuelan merengue, klezmer and good old rock.
Opening track Cedar Place sets the scene with switching lines and fast-changing tempos. There are moments of Big Band excitement bookended with a more contemporary Jazz Messengers feel. The intermittent propulsive bass line pushes through, whether from Rosenblum's piano, Marty Jaffe's bass, or hints of the until-now mythical driving bass clarinet.
It is a joyous sensory overload, mixing tidy, focused trumpet improvisation from Wayne Tucker and clean tenor lines from Jasper Dutz with the anachronistic accordion tone which quickly transports us somewhere significantly more rustic and Baltic than the swinging neo-bop we just left.
This isn't a debut release for Rosenblum as a band leader, but it is a first for the Nebula Project. While the group may have drawn musicians in from many different sub-scenes to play together on an equally diverse set of pieces, Kites and Strings is anything but a nebulous thing; it is a pot-luck of pieces, but each is well thought out and presented as a shiny, finished artefact.
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There's no tangle ending up in Charlie Brown's nemesis tree when it comes to the musical deftness displayed in "Kites and Strings" (One Trick Dog) by Ben Rosenblum's Nebula Project.
This is a well-designed set of balanced ensemble jazz, with solos inserted aptly. When Rosenblum reaches far afield for material - as in a folk song picked up from a Bulgarian women's chorus recording and a tune from Brahms' Fourth Symphony - he always makes it suit the players and the sound terrain that his band calls home. Same with his visits to the Leonard Bernstein and Neil Young songbooks.
Besides the leader, the group consists of Jasper Dutz, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Wayne Tucker, trumpet; Rafael Rosa, guitar; Marty Jaffe, bass, and Ben Zweig, drums. For the two borrowed pieces, Rosenblum brings in Jeremy Corren as pianist for the Brahms and Bulgarian tracks. Cameo guests add rich flavor to "Bright Above Us" - trombonist Sam Chess and vibraphonist Jake Chapman. (Separately, the trombonist and the vibist also guest on one other track each.)
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Kites and Strings: A young hydra that's a fount of talent that can't be contained, Rosenblum takes on his third set with a third persona and uses it to kick ass throughout. A witty, skillful composer, the multi instrumentalist leads his first full band outing in fine form with playing and writing that are second to none. A young jazzbo that's sure to be an overnight sensation a few years from now from years of intense work in the trenches, the newbies will think he's a phenom that arrived fully formed, but we'll wink and nudge and be several records up on them. Killer stuff. (One Trick Dog)
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