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"MODERN DRUMMER FEATURE MARCH '03 ISSUE"
for Ken Micallif's interview with Ben
CAMP SONGS voted in JAZZTIMES TOP 50 CDS OF 2003! (Wayne
Shorter on cover) Finishing in line with Jaco Pastorius Big Band,
Elvis Costello, and Kurt Roesenwinkel
Also reviewed in Jazztimes Nov. 2003 "Drum Beat"
(Max Roach on cover) along with other drummer leaders: Max Roach,
Aldo Romano, Elvin Jones, Joe Chambers, Gerry Hemingway, Winard
Harper, T.S. Monk and Steve Smith - by Nate Chinen ...
"...Surprising in a different sense, Camp Songs (Tzadik)
finds drummer Ben Perowsky riffing on the traditional prayer melodies of his summer camp youth. He couldn't have chosen better
partners in the task; pianist Uri Caine and Drew Gress have worked
together in a host of settings and a wide range of material, and
their rapport with Perowsky is airtight. (As it should be, given
that the three musicians work together under Caine's
leadership.) Thanks largely to Caine's harmonic recasting and
melodic abstraction, the group tease out the jazz elements of it's
ethnic-folk repertoire. And the gambit rarely feels like a gimmick, even when vocalists Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles (of goth pop
group Elysian Fields) join the fray for a haunting "Birkat
Hamazon." Although released under John Zorn's "Radical
Jewish Culture" banner, Camp Songs is less radical
than reasonable: It underscores an affinity that always lurked beneath the surface. The album suceeds as a listening experience because
of what Perowsky and friends manage to do with the stuff."
REVIEW FROM ALL MUSIC GUIDE:
"Here, New York City-based modern jazz drummer Ben Perowsky reworks prayer songs that he learned as a child while attending summer camp in upstate New York. Ultimately, the trio featuring pianist Uri Caine and bassist Drew Gress rearranges these sacred songs sans two originals by Perowsky into a series of loosely performed jazz works, as the band's hip outlook surfaces quite nicely via driving swing vamps intermingled with freely organized exchanges, boogie-blues, and more. No doubt, Perowsky possesses laudable chops amid his lyrically charged sense of swing and power rolls. However, this set comes across as a cohesive group effort, founded upon the drummer's take on Jewish prayer tunes. Many of these pieces are constructed upon airy soundscapes and fragmented themes, enhanced by Perowsky's multi-hued cymbal swashes and Caine's extraordinary improvisational abilities. With the piece titled "Birkat Hamazon," the drummer enlists a vocal duo for a delicately orchestrated jazz groove marked by Brazilian samba and Jewish traditionalism. A delightful listening experience indeed." Glenn Astarita
BOP ON POP
click here for: ALLABOUTJAZZ REVIEW JUNE 2003
Reviewed by Owen Cordle for JAZZTIMES magazine April, 2003.
"Ben Perowsky, his father, Frank, and Sam Yahel are a trio that leaves
you feeling optimistic about the state of jazz. No, they don't play
prophetic or futuristic music. Nor do they sermonize about the past.
They do, however, on this album, perform crisp, straightahead jazz
with originality, swing and passion.
Drummer Ben, who produced the session, has worked with Roy Ayers,
Walter Becker (of Steely Dan), Dave Douglas, David Liebman, the
Lounge Lizards, Pat Martino, James Moody and John Scofield, among
others. He creates excitement in a classic Buddy Rich and Louie
Bellson sort of way, although stylistically he owes as much to more
modern drummers. (He studied with Bobby Thomas and Alan Dawson.)
Tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Frank, a big band alum (the Elgarts,
Woody Herman, Bill Watrous, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis) and Broadway pit-band
musician, has a fine tone and a flair for bop lines that breathe.
He is one of but a few bebop clarinetists. On Fats Waller's "The
Jitterbug Waltz," Horace Silver's "Quicksilver" and
Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" his clarinet style suggests
Tony Scott. On tenor on the other six tracks, he is occasionally
reminiscent of Hank Mobley and early Sonny Rollins, which is to
say thoughtful, structured and clear in direction.
Organist Yahel (who has been performing in Joshua Redman's Elastic
Band) appears on seven tracks and provides all the right harmonic
colors for the ensemble. His accents and dynamics often add a subtle
hint of mystery to the proceedings. Although Yahel is plenty funky
and punchy on "Star Eyes," he generally eschews the grits-and-gravy
jazz organ style throughout the album in favor of a more diverse
May 11th, 2000
Ben talking with Michael
Azzerad (writer from Rolling Stone magazine, "come as you are"
nirvana biography, and drummer for "king of france")
Behind the drum kit, Ben Perowsky resembles a chef happily tossing
a salad. He plays with a miraculous minimum of motion, drawing immense
dynamics, rhythmic complexity and a bewilderingly wide range of
tones from the drums with the graceful economy of a black-belt.
And the cat can play anything. Unsurprisingly, hes one of
the hottest drummers in New York.
Perowsky debuted on a 1988 live album with jazz-funk vibraphonist
Roy Ayers at Londons legendary Ronnie Scotts; only 22,
Perowsky had rehearsed exactly once with the band -- and still tore
it up. Since then, hes played with a diverse bunch of A-list
musicians like Rickie Lee Jones, Walter Becker, John Cale, the Lounge
Lizards, John Zorn, jazz guitar greats Pat Martino and Mike Stern,
and Malian pop star Salif Keita.
Perowsky was born into jazz -- his father is saxophonist-arranger
Frank Perowsky, with whom Ben was playing straight-up bebop by his
early teens. But between the Led Zeppelin his brother cranked, his
moms Sly Stone records and the smorgasbord of sounds on the
streets of his native New York City, young Ben soaked up a vast
array of influences.
While he still plays bebop with Dad (album coming this fall) Perowsky
has delved into a wide range of modern music, like Lost Tribes
jazz fusion, the prog-pop Fertile Crescent, the wonderfully uncategorizable
Spanish Fly, ambient trip-hop unit Liminal and incandescent moodists
Elysian Fields. And check out his uncanny drum n bass
drumming in the electronica documentary Modulations. Its like
he knows several languages.
Many of those languages go into the recently released debut by Perowskys
eponymous trio with bassist Scott Colley and saxophonist/clarinetist
Chris Speed. Perowskys compositions virtually define the new
downtown jazz, and the fiery, telepathic band simply shoots them
through the roof. The trio flaunts its varied roots with a groovy
take on Pink Floyds Money, an exhilarating sprint
through a Messiaen piece and an eloquent In A Sentimental
Mood. Visit www.perowsky.com for some sounds.
On a sleepy May afternoon, Perowsky sat down for a chat in a Lower
East Side cafe, just before launching a month-long European tour
with legendary jazz guitarist John Scofield.
YOUR DRUMMING HAS A
MELODIC APPROACH. WHERE DOES THAT COME FROM?
Ive always been attracted to melody. When I was studying jazz
a lot, I would sing along with the solos. And then later on I realized
that I hadnt memorized what Philly Joe had played -- I could
sing Tranes solo but I had no idea what Philly was playing.
BUT HOW DO YOU PLAY DRUMS MELODICALLY? ITS NOT A MELODIC INSTRUMENT...
Oh, I beg to differ. I can definitely hear melodies when Im
playing. Its about phrasing, like the way a horn player phrases
something. Certain drummers are more drumistically oriented
-- you can tell they grew up in marching bands and they played this...
drum language, and thats great -- I try to get that, too.
Then theres drummers like Paul Motian where you dont
hear that at all. Not to say that he doesnt have chops, but
he plays musical phrases rather than paradiddles and ratamacues.
THERES A LOT OF SUGGESTION INVOLVED, TOO.
Right, exactly -- suggestion is a good word. I can play
a three-note phrase on the toms and ask five people to sing it back
to me and Ill get five different takes on how it sounded.
There are so many overtones on each drum and cymbal, depending on
the way you hit them.
YOU PLAY WITHOUT FLAILING YOUR ARMS.
If youve ever seen videos of old-school drummers, they dont
move at all. I feel like if Im moving too much, its
going to tire me out for no reason and maybe even get in the way
of the sound Im trying to get out of the kit. I recently saw
Jack DeJohnette and he was playing more stuff than most people can
ever imagine and he never moved his upper torso -- unless he was
twisting to play one of the two or three floor toms he had [laughs].
Philly Joe was just straight up. Even Elvin Jones, he doesnt
flail his arms that much, Art Blakey... Those are the guys that
DID YOU SEE THOSE GUYS IN PERSON?
Yeah. My dad took me when I was very young and then I went by myself.
I saw Philly Joe play a lot and Art Blakey even more than that.
I really watched those drummers in person a lot. I also watched
a lot of Keith Moon on film. I wish I had seen him live -- he was
incredible. I guess Im kind of old school.
WHATS THE CHALLENGE OF LEADING A BAND FROM THE DRUMS?
If I were a trumpet player, it would be easier to cue things, being
at the front of the stage instead of the back. Even Art Blakey had
a musical director who would cue things. So thats a challenge
for me, to establish that role and get people to look up and take
cues from the back.
YOUR FATHERS INFLUENCE IS OBVIOUS. BUT HOW ABOUT YOUR MOTHER,
WHO WAS A BALLET DANCER?
Well, she was the one with all the Sly Stone records. She had a
really cool record collection.
I THOUGHT MAYBE THE DANCE THING...
Not really. I appreciate dance. I go see dance and sometimes Ill
do music for dance. But musically, it was her records.
DRUMMING _IS_ LIKE DANCING...
I definitely suggest to any drummer to go out dancing. You have
to be in touch with your limbs in order to make them come down at
the right time. Or just stomp your feet and clap your hands.
WHATS THE BEST ADVICE ANYBODYS EVER GIVEN YOU ABOUT
When we were making the Fertile Crescent record, [producer] Roger
Moutenot said something that always stuck with me. I was a lot younger
and I had Roger up on this pedestal -- Wow, this guy engineered
Bill Frisell records! So I asked him for some advice as a
drummer and he just said to get everything centered so things come
down together. Especially in a pop context, that is so important.
I cant remember exactly how he said it, but it always stuck
with me as something to go for. Its got to feel good. It cant
be skipping all over the place.
DO YOU HAVE A MAIN KIT?
I usually use... I should preface any gear talk with Im
really looking for an endorsement right now... [Laughs] Im
still playing on the same stuff I was playing on in high school.
I have a Gretsch kit in jazz sizes: 18 bass drum, 8x12 and
14x14 toms. I use those toms regardless of what size kick Im
going to use. I also have a 20 Gretsch kick and a 22
Pearl kick. It depends on what kind of music Im doing at the
time -- it goes from completely acoustic jazz, which Ill use
the 18 kick for, to more electric stuff, where Ill go
to the 20. And once in a while Ill bring out the 22
when I really need to have a heavier sound. But the 20 is
punchy enough for all kinds of stuff.
WHAT KIND OF HEADS?
Coated Ambassador. I endorse Remo heads and I use them. I use coated
Ambassadors on top and clear Ambassadors on the bottom. But Ive
been experimenting -- for a jazz sound I like to put coated Ambassadors
on the bottom, too. When Im playing bebop, I like to tune
the drums up pretty high, and somehow with a thicker head on the
bottom you get a little less ring. When Im tuning it up way
high, I like ring but when I hit the drum I dont want it to
be like Im pushing on a sustain pedal. Sometimes the Gretsch
can sing so much that its a little too much, maybe.
WHAT ABOUT THE SNARE DRUM?
I have a Brady, standard depth. I guess its jarwood [ck?]
-- its carved out of one piece of wood. I got it ten years
ago and Ive been using it ever since. But Ludwig is the most
consistently good sounding snare. I have an old Ludwig Acrolite
snare drum, the student model, and thats good for certain
things. It doesnt speak as well as the other Ludwig I have,
a chrome Supraphonic. Id use that on a jazz gig where I need
to have a lot of sensitivity, where I have to play lightly on it
but have it speak.
HOW ABOUT CYMBALS?
I play Zildjian cymbals. I just went to the factory and got a bunch
of stuff -- a 22 Constantinople light ride... Ive played
so many cymbals through the years, Im constantly changing
them around to get the right combination. I also picked up an 18
Constantinople -- this suspended crash cymbal made for classical
professionals -- and it really worked. Its got a really nice
bell on it, too. With high hats I go back and forth a lot. Ive
been using 14 A Custom Zildjian hats. Ultimately, Id
like to have an old set of K hats -- theres nothing like that
stuff for playing jazz. They have the warmth, that sound, somehow
you manage to get attack with not too much wash. Theyre getting
close to that with the Constantinoples.
The "new" NYC Young Lion: An Interview with Jazz drummer Ben Perowsky
By Brian L. Knight - follow this link"The Vermont Review"
Milkowski (JazzTimes11/99 )
"Drummer Ben Perowsky brings so much depth and versatility to the kit that he's been a sideman of choice for an astonishing variety of players.
In the past few years, Perowsky has played on Dave Douglas' Magic Triangle,
Pat Martino's All Sides Now, Mike Stern's Play , and Salif Keita's Papa
while also performing with Uri Caine's Mahler project, Don Byron's Bug
Music, and the fusion quartet Lost Tribe. There's also the indie rock band
Elysian Fields, and dub/electronica group Liminal, and a straight ahead
jazz quartet led by his sax-playing father, Frank. But by far the most
expressive outlet for his very melodic, Tony Williams-inspired approach to
the kit remains the Ben Perowsky Trio. Formed in 1997 for a weekly
engagement at the Knitting Factory's Tap Room, the BP Trio has developed
into a vehicle for the drummer's open-ended writing. And with empathetic
bassist Scott Colley and saxophonist Chris Speed on board, the music takes
on a highly conversational flow, as heard on the group's self-titled debut
on Jazz Key Music. A role model for the trio, Ben explains, was Sonny
Rollins' A Night at the Vanguard recordings with Wilber Ware and Elvin
Jones. "All three of us grew up listening to those records," says Perowsky,
"But actually, my own roots go back to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink
Floyd." Which explains the presence of Floyd's "Money" as the closing
track, done up in a loose grooving, freeblowing fashion. Elsewhere,
Perowsky demonstrates a lyrical touch with brushes on his "Electric Sheep"
and a decidedly Elvin-esque way with mallets on Ellington's In a
Sentimental Mood. He swings frenetically on Bird's Segment and offers up
a take on Messiaen. Granted, thats covering alot of ground, but it's still
not revealing the full picture. "I did'nt want to bring all my bags into
one project," says Perowsky. "There is'nt really one band that I could
play all the different styles in. And more and more, the different bands
don't bleed into each other stylistically as much as they used to. So now
I'm just going for whatever the music is dictating."
Ben Perowsky Trio, (JazzKey Music, Ltd.), released '99
"This live recording at the Knitting
Factory in NYC surely recalls the old Village Vanguard trio sessions of
Sonny Rollins, Wilbur Ware &Elvin Jones gone further out. They are
similar in spontaniety and progressive attitude.
Extendo-saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed and in-the-pocket bassist Scott
Colley join rubber band flexible and potent drummer Perowsky as a power
trio that is juggernaut, steamroller powerful in most instances, though
there are some tender moments present.
One such demure respite is a version of "In
A Sentimantal Mood" done in more lavendar that blue shadings, Speed on
tenor. The opener, "El Destructo,"a 13 minute modal workout in 10
beats to the measure, carves out the essence of the combo, more a
deconstructo. "Janitor" is also aggressive, hip and happening, as
is a fine take on Charlie Parker's bop flagwaver "Segment. As a
zinger, they tackle an Olivier Messiaen theme arranged by Perowsky
"Danse De La Fureur, Pour Les Sept Trompettes," Speed on clarinet
during a 2 1/2 minute hyper-kinetic romp. "Electric Sheep" is
free and spooky, as is Pink Floyd's "Money," featuring Speed's
melodic, smeared and multi-phonic lines. It's a trip, it's a gas.
There are many redeeming moments, as the
collective musicianship is strongly framed. Perowsky, as leader, is
willing to both take chances and adopt familiar themes, mixing them in an
alchemists brew that crosses many cultural and generational lines."
Nastos, All About Jazz Webzine 7/99
"The drummer's self - titled trio
album (jazzkey) is a success with Chris Speed's saxophone and clarinet well
focused by the compositions and Scott Colley's bass holding the ground, all
of which bodes well for these live trio sets."
(Village Voice 7/13/99)
"Color can be a rhythmic impetus
just as much as "regular" cadences can, and this versatile
drummer finds ways to incorporate the two. The result is a rainbow full of
vim. His B.P. Trio - with Scott Colley and Chris Speed, agile improvisers
who realize that pressure can be pretty - has a nifty new disc that
underwrites cooperation at every turn."
(Village Voice 9/7/99)
"The drummers self-titled trio album
(jazzkey) is one I find myself returning to, an openhearted an convincing
jaunt in which the compositions bring out the best in the gited saxophonist
and clarinetist Chris Speed, which Scott Colley's bass holds."
(Village Voice 9/21/99)
Ben Perowsky Trio, (JazzKey
"Three of the most talanted sidemen in the
business appear on drummer Ben Perowsky's debut as a leader. Recorded live
at the Knitting Factory during this group's weekly series of gigs in 1997
and 1998 (complete with the clinking of glasses and the dull roar of
background noise) this release documents the group tackling original
material mixed with covers of Bird, Ellington, even Roger Waters.
The result is an exciting, sometimes
tongue-in-cheek, approach combining inflections of drum-n-bass and groove
with wide-open tunes providing plenty of room for improvisation. The
interplay between Perowsky and bassist Scott Colley clearly exibits their
decade long collaberotion, as tenor sax and clarinet player Chris Speed
takes the melody spotlight and extended space and soloing opportunities in
stride, completing the circle begun by the partners in rhythm.
The three Perowsky-penned originals are all
excellent. Both the opener "El Destructo" and
"Janitor" employ entrancing and often groovy bass riffs from
Colley. The latter has Perowsky opening the piece with a Mitch
Mitchellesque drum intro that sets the tone from the get-go, making this
tune the highlight of the set. "Electric Sheep" turns the knob
to slow boil while the group composed "Pixy 99" sounds like
something from the MMW repertoire, with Speed imitating arco bass by
blowing air through his tenor. As for the covers, the small group dynamic
favors Bird's "Segment" and Perowsky's arrangement somehow makes
Messiaen's "Danse Du La Fureur Pour Les Sept Trompettes" seem
like a natural choice. Ten minutes of "In a Sentimental Mood"
seems a little much, as does eight minutes of Pink Floyd's "Money,
though both certainly have their moments.
Overall, this album does two important things
very well. It is an authentically documented time and place with a great
group and it leaves us wanting more -- particularly more Perowsky
compositions. We can only hope the success of this disc will give the
powers-that-be the impetus to allow this long-time sideman the opportunity
to flex more of his muscles as a leader."
Menhinick for Signal to Noise
"There is a network of young players
now who have created an alternative jazz scene- Ben Allison, Ben Perowsky,
Matt Wilson, Seamus Blake, Adam Rogers, Steve Bernstein, Dave Binney, all
of whom are playing adventurous original music."
Scofield from JazzTimes interview 8/98
1999 du Maurier
International Jazz Festival
Jamie Saft/ Cuong Vu's "Ragged Jack"
"Ah, New York City. Never been there, but
these guys are one more reason on that massive list making me ache to go
(like anyone would ever need any more reasons). Was instantly mesmerized by
Cuong Vu's hypnotic, echoey trumpet tones streaming smoothly, consistently
out through effects pedals. Almost scary to consider how much practice time
and noodling goes into getting THAT acquainted with your instrument and the
possibilities of what you can do with a few toys. Funky, groove-oriented
poppy jazz hooked me in immediately at their free outdoor show in Gastown
so much so that I simply HAD to spend$15 on a cab across town to get from
one show to their only other festival performance.
First set there marred by technical difficulties
including excessive feedback from Vu's monitor and a damaged drum that Ben
Perowsky had to change mid-set - big surprise that guy, who I once heard
described as a football player at the drums, could pound the hell out of a
drum enough to need a replacement. But lest anyone think he's a one-trick
pony, think again: he can go way hard and bring it all down to a gentle
rumble - it's all about control,baby!"
Josephine Ochej for
Vancouver Wrap-Up 7/99