Ben Kono Group
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Ben Kono Group

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz




"Ben Kono-"Paradise in Manzanar" Live"

"...Ben Kono, a hard-working sideman saxophonist from New York, started to put together the pieces of his song “Paradise in Manzanar” not long after the twin towers fell. But it relates to a different tragedy: the imprisonment of Japanese-American civilians during World War II. After reading Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar in the tenth grade, “paradise” is one of the last words I would use to describe the California internment camps. But there’s the old adage about life dealing you lemons…“Paradise in Manzanar” is one of the most striking tracks from Kono’s solo debut Crossing, which is saying something since the whole album boasts an elegant selection of songs of the chamber jazz and/or post-classical persuasion."--John Garratt, PopMatters
- PopMatters

"'Crossing' review"

"Multi-instrumentalist Ben a consummate sideman, known for his contributions to some of the hipper New York big bands and his dazzling dexterity on a host of wind instruments, but on Crossing, his debut as a leader, he stands on his own merits as a composer and stylist. Joined by Henry Hey (keyboards), Pete McCann (guitars) and John Hollenbeck (drums), with Heather Laws (voice, French horn), the date boasts hard-hitting tracks with impressive blowing. Standouts include the epic “Paradise in Manzanar” featuring Kono’s compelling English horn, the funky “Rice” with its dense but never cluttered textures and the striking tenor solo on the title track, which grows from a small, three-note cell into a monolithic edifice."--Tom Greenland The New York City Jazz Record, March 2011 - New York City Jazz Record, March 2011 vol.107

"Best of 2011"

"The first time I listened to "Crossing" (Nineteen-Eight), the debut CD by multi-reed player Ben Kono, the music stopped me cold. Not only does Kono play a slew of instruments (oboe, english horn, flute, alto flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone and shakuhachi), his compositions and arrangements are strikingly good. Supported by the rhythm section of John Hollenbeck (drums) and John Hebert (bass) plus the fine keyboard work of Henry Hey and soaring electric guitar of Pete McCann (his acoustic work is also excellent), Kono creates an aural auto-biography that is as moving as it is musical. His wife, Heather Laws, adds vocals and french horn to several tracks. What a debut!"--Step Tempest - Step Tempest

"Jazz Semi-Top Ten for 2011"

"Kono is one of the stal­wart ses­sion men on the New York scene, from Broad­way to the stel­lar big bands of Darcy James Argue and John Hol­len­beck. His ver­sa­til­ity as a player comes through on Cross­ing in a rich range of musi­cal think­ing; all the pieces are his own, and his writ­ing makes excel­lent use of word­less voice, french horn, and his own ter­rific flute and double-reed play­ing. His writ­ing makes the band, with Heather Laws the afore­men­tioned singer/horn player, Henry Hey on piano, gui­tarist Pete McCann, John Hébert on bass and drum­mer Hol­len­beck, sound enor­mous. The musi­cal ideas come out of the con­tem­po­rary legacy of sophis­ti­cated, inter­na­tion­ally tinged jazz com­po­si­tion and orches­tra­tion, make use of the best lessons from the likes of Pat Metheny as well as his own col­leagues. Kono places an empha­sis on melody, and is a real crafts­man, shift­ing his lovely lines through dif­fer­ent tex­tures and har­monies, com­bin­ing sec­tions that seem like bits of songs into larger forms and never los­ing track of where he has come from and where he is going."--The Big City Blog
- The BIg City Blog


Crossing (Nineteen-Eight Records)



publicity: c/o Matt Merewitz at

Since moving to New York City in 1999, woodwind performer and saxophonist 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. Now, with the release of his debut recording CROSSING on Nineteen-Eight Records, he has come into his own light as a leader and composer of note.

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, Toots Thielmans, Michel LeGrand, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Locke, Andrew Rathbun, Manuel Valera and David Taylor; with superstars Patti Austin, Deborah Gibson, Hugh Jackman and Liza Minelli; and is a member of the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, the Ed Palermo Big Band, Gotham Winds, Numinous, the BMI Jazz Composers Orchestra, the Jamie Begian Big Band, Newyorkestra, Sound Assembly, and the Jersey Boys Orchestra 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.


The broader a band’s tonal palette, the richer the music becomes. The Ben Kono Group proves this numerous times on the colorful ‘Crossing’, a sublime ensemble disc that finds lots of unique territory being investigated. The respected New York saxophonist is expert in an array of instruments that stretches from oboe to shakuhachi, and he’s put some deep composing and arranging skills into play on his debut. As Crossing’s varied interests present themselves, its sextet music speaks to both the power of scope and the art of integration.
Informed by post-classical, rock, and modern jazz forms, Kono’s flute, English horn, and bass clarinet all help stir the group’s graceful manuevers towards something quite singular.

The Band

Keyboardist Henry Hey, a fellow classmate from the University of North Texas, has enjoyed a widely diversified musical career in New York. He has toured and recorded with Jeff Watts, Alex Sipiagin, Bill Evans, Bill Bruford, Harry Belafonte, PM Dawn, Phil Ramone, Theo Bleckmann, and has toured as pianist and musical director for Rod Stewart. He co-leads ‘Rudder’ which features saxophonist Chris Cheek (Paul Motion) bassist Tim Lefebvre (Uri Caine) and drummer Keith Carlock (Wayne Krantz, Sting and Steely Dan).

Kono’s association with drummer John Hollenbeck goes back to their studies at the Eastman School of Music. He has worked with many of the world’s leading musicians in jazz (Bob Brookmeyer, Fred Hersch, Tony Malaby, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Kenny Wheeler), world music (Pablo Ziegler), and new music (Meredith Monk). He is a professor of Jazz Drums and Improvisation at the Jazz Institute Berlin in Germany and leads several critically acclaimed ensembles, most notably ‘The Claudia Quintet’ and the twice-Grammy nominated ‘John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’.

Guitarist Pete McCann has had a long-standing musical relationship with Kono and is one of the first-call sidemen in New York. His work includes the Patti Austin band, Lee Konitz Nonet, Chris Tarry Quintet, Melissa Stylianou group, and he has performed with some of the greats in jazz: Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz, Kenny Garrett, Peter Erskine, Gary Thomas, Greg Osby, Brian Blade, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

New Orleans native John Hébert is one of the busiest bassists in New York and a regular in the Rising Star Acoustic Bass category of DownBeat’s annual Critics Poll for the past three years. His discography features more than 45 recordings since 2000, including titles by Dave Ballou, Uri Caine, Mary Halvorson, Andrew Hill, Steve Lehman, Andrew Rathbun, Dave Scott and Gebhard Ullmann, and he has performed as a sideman with Ralph Alessi, Taylor Ho Bynum, Frank Carlberg, Fred Hersch and