JAZZIZ Online Editor Matt Micucci and I recently had an interesting conversation in which we discussed what inspired me to start playing jazz, artists who have most influenced my style, the concept behind the compositions on Radiance, recording at home, the power of groove and much more. Listen here, or check out JAZZIZ Not What You Think wherever you stream fine podcasts (Spotify, Apple Music, etc).
(Live at Paradiso in Santa Fe, NM, November 18th, 2023, photo by Carl Coan)
Reviews for my new album Radiance are starting to come in. Here’s a few samples of what the press has to say about our latest recording:
“Paster’s joy of playing catchy but cleverly constructed jazz is palpable… [He] is an intelligent and soulful pianist that turned in a thoroughly enjoyable affair.”
-François van de Linde, Jazz Journal
“There’s a wonderful ‘down home’ feel about [I Remember Nat] that takes me back to my earliest adventures in jazz… absolute groove, folks… Flawless recording and high-energy trio talent make this one of the most fascinating albums I’ve listened to (yet) in 2023… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED”
-Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
“Rich with creativity and basted in ‘the blues.’ … “Radiance” is a continuation of Bennett Paster’s passion for playing and composing. He consistently gathers a variety of excellent players. Together, they continue to perpetuate the legacy and value of jazz music and peace on earth.”
-Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs
JAZZIZ Magazine featured my song “Pyramid Breakfast” in their Winter 2024 Jazz Discovery issue and accompanying CD/playlist. They described the track as having “giddy excitement” and being “deeply blusey.” They continued, “the pianist opens with a late-night Chicago blues-like solo, which picks up momentum as it slides into boogaloo territory, with funky, New Orleans second-line rhythms.”
-JAZZIZ, Winter Discovery 2024 Issue
I first attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop (SJW) in 1984, a 14 year-old High School rising sophomore pianist from Albuquerque, NM. This was my first trip to a jazz camp, and I immediately fell in love with the environment, the people, the music. My teachers that first year included George Cables, Mark Levine, Smith Dobson Sr and Larry Grenadier. I can still remember playing the songs Bouncing with Bud and Think on Me at the final concert, in Dinkelspeil Recital Hall. I’ve returned to SJW many times, first as student, then junior faculty member, and over 35 years since my first summer there, I still return to teach, play concerts and hang at the place I consider my summer second home.
The SJW experience has always been about more than just jazz music- it’s also about community. Many of the friends I’ve made there have influenced me and have remained my closest colleagues and bandmates. Michael Zisman, Gregory Ryan, Yosvanny Terry & Dafnis Prieto come immediately to mind among so many others. In the early years, many of us would meet at the Tressider Memorial Student Union for breakfast before heading to our morning classes. The cafeteria line there had a concept they called Pyramid breakfast- you could pick a few items from each category to make your own custom breakfast. My friends and I would grab our food, then head outside (Stanford’s weather is paradise in the summer) to talk about what we’d learned, what we’d heard, what we were excited about.
Even now, in the jazz clubs of NYC, I often meet musicians whom I first met at SJW- they come up to me and remember the songs we played when I led their ensemble, or recount some lesson I shared in masterclass or theory class, and I feel proud to be part of this continuum of jazz music and culture.
Thinking back to these days, and loving the title “Pyramid Breakfast,” I composed a song for my album, Radiance. It’s a 16-bar gospel and blues influenced tune, starting with descending dominant 7#9 chords coming down from the minor 3rd to the root, simple at its conception, but like many of my tunes, infused with crafty cleverness. The melody is reinforced by 4 note chords below, which works well in a piano trio context, but also lent itself to an expanded performance with horns at the SJW at 50 concert, in the summer of 2022 back in Dinkelspeil Recital Hall- bringing me around full circle to where it all started back in 1984. Enjoy Pyramid Breakfast, from Radiance.
Just search “Bennett Paster Radiance” on your favorite streaming services, or click the links below to listen:
BANDCAMP (best way to support the artist; no subscription needed; CDs and LPs available for purchase.)
I’m delighted to announce the official release of my new recording: Radiance! It’s an exuberant expression of the jazz piano trio tradition, featuring 11 original songs: Radiant music at the crossroads of Beauty and Groove.
I recently heard Paul Simon say that he thinks his songs aren’t complete until they are listened to – I love that idea! Due to the aural, abstract nature of instrumental music, every individual listener will have their own perception of and connection to a work, and these responses may vary widely… So please, I invite you to check out our music, then let me know what you hear, what you feel, what it makes you want to create.
This album was self-produced and self-funded. Please consider supporting me and my music by purchasing a physical or digital copy. And please consider sharing this album with friends and family. Thanks so much!
Bennett Paster: piano • Gary Wang: bass • Tony Mason: drums
Recorded by Bennett Paster at Benny’s Wash & Dry, December 2022 & April 2023
Mixed by Larry Phillabaum at Cloudland Recording
Mastered by Katsuhiko Naito (vinyl and CD)
All songs composed by Bennett Paster
Wild Kitties Music (BMI)
Photos by Jenni Walkowiak
Design by Atjeljestudio
© (p) 2023 Bennett Paster
(Flowers in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery- one of my favorite places to wander and explore.)
Life’s busy rhythm seems to really intensify in the Fall. It feels good to be in the creative groove of activity, but sometimes we need an interlude, a break from the constant beat, beat, beat…
This week, I’d like to share my song Interlude- it’s the one track on my new album Radiance that isn’t in a steady pulse; instead we present melody and texture and simply follow the thread of each phrase in “free time.” Imagine the difference between walking purposefully to the subway on your way to work versus wandering around a meadow, following your senses, simply exploring your surroundings. Inspired by my love of free jazz, with shades of Paul Bley, Keith Jarrett and Lyle Mays, Interlude tells a beautiful story in a free, intuitive way, leaving the groove to rest for a brief moment.
Consider taking an interlude yourself, whenever you can afford the time. Wander somewhere unintentionally, and experience your surroundings anew. Please enjoy Interlude, from my new album, Radiance, featuring Gary Wang (bass) and Tony Mason (drums). Available on CD, LP and streaming everywhere on 11/1/23.
Agile Wallaby (track 2 from Radiance)
Agile Wallaby is track two on my latest album Radiance, out 11/1/23. Who amongst us didn’t get caught up during the pandemic watching some home renovation or nature shows on streaming video? One of my favorites was Out There with Jack Randall, a nature show set in Australia, on Nat Geo (Disney+). Episode two was all about kangaroos and wallabies. When a juvenile wallaby is old enough to leave the safety of its mom’s pouch and hop on its own, it’s called an “agile wallaby.” Watching these cute marsupials bounce around inspired the melodic motive for this week’s preview stream: Agile Wallaby.
This original composition is informed by two primary influences that have molded my music for decades: Afro Latin rhythms (12/8, in particular) and the blues. As a student at Tufts University (’88-93) many fellow students and faculty members insisted that I sign up for David Locke’s African Drumming class. During my year in the ensemble, Locke introduced me to several foundational West African rhythms, and in particular helped me really hear and understand some of the myriad ways that 12/8 time can be subdivided. 12 is a magic number because it’s divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6- any of these groupings can be the primary accents in 12/8, and learning to really feel them all and freely transition between them was ear-expanding. These African and Afro Latin rhythms are at the foundation of many the jazz and blues rhythms, so being introduced to them close to their African sources was a critical step in my development.
Surveying my catalog of songs, after nearly 40 years of writing instrumental jazz, the most common thread connecting my work is a love for and constant reinvention of the blues, both in form and in feeling. Each of my 9 records as a leader or co-leader has at least one song that’s an interpolation of the blues. Five of the tracks on Radiance are different explorations and expansions of the blues form! Agile Wallaby takes a 16-bar extended blues form and sets it in a Latin jazz 12/8 time feel. The I and IV chords are where the ear would expect in a typical 12-bar blues, but in place of the V chord I’ve inserted a more complicated chord sequence that’s reminiscent of a Steely Dan song, or Joe Henderson’s writing. As you listen to the track, pay attention to how and when the 12/8 feel transitions to swing, and then back again. These two time feels are so closely related; I love the tension and release created when implying one within the other, and eventually changing. Gary Wang (bass) and Tony Mason (drums) are agile playmates in this rhythmic playground, leading to a fun, lighthearted performance.
I’m excited to announce the November 1, 2023 release of my latest recording Radiance!
As the world around us continues to grow ever more complex, I looked to music as an antidote: something to settle, to soothe, to smooth the wrinkles of our modern lives. My latest album, Radiance, reflects the results of this search. It is an exuberant expression of the jazz piano trio tradition, featuring 11 original songs; radiant music at the crossroads of beauty and groove.
On November 1, 2023, the full album will be available to stream, or to purchase on CD or vinyl LP. But each week in October, I’ll be posting a single track for you to stream here. This week I present the title track: “Radiance.”
Many of my original compositions explore and extend the blues, but I have a parallel love for tonal music. The gravity inherent in harmonic tension and resolution speaks to me, emotionally. The song, Radiance, is a joyous exploration of modulation between two different key centers (Db major and F major). Drummer Tony Mason’s cross stick groove and bassist Gary Wang’s bass line anchor my motivic melody. The bridge section modulates further to A major and explores the Latin and Brazilian influences that have permeated so much of my music, from Grupo Yanqui’s albums in the early 2000s, through my more recent solo releases. Please listen, enjoy and share. Let me know what you think!
Radiance (track 1 from Bennett Paster, RADIANCE)
Sunday September 10, 6:30-pm
$25/person plus 2-drink minimum
The Django is a Paris-inspired jazz venue & cocktail bar under the Roxy Hotel in TriBeCa, with vaulted ceilings. Food and drinks available. Join us for an evening of original music from our forthcoming album Radiance plus standards, Stevie tunes and whatever else strikes our fancy.
Bennett Paster (piano), Gary Wang (bass) & Tony Mason (drums).