Ben Allison

Ben Allison

Musicians | Instrument: Bass, acoustic | Location: New York City

Within 10 seconds of dropping the needle on this one, the well-being center of my brain starting telling me, ‘You need to listen to this music as often as possible.’ It was an ‘ahh’ moment, like a Gatorade after a 10K — a replenishing source of something essential that had been depleted, or gone missing, in me. And it felt too good to pass up.
—Ed Enright, Downbeat Magazine

Updated: December 17, 2022

Born: November 17, 1966

In a career that spans over 30 years, bassist/composer Ben Allison has developed his own instantly identifiable sound. Known for his inspired arrangements, inventive grooves and hummable melodies, Ben draws from the jazz tradition and a range of influences from rock and folk to 20th century and a broad range of music from around the world, seamlessly blending them into a cinematic, cohesive whole.

With his small groups, Ben has toured extensively throughout the world building new audiences with an adventurous yet accessible sound and a flair for the unexpected.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Ben has performed and collaborated with an extremely diverse range of artists including oudist Ara Dinkjian, kora player Mamadou Diabate, saxophonists Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano, Cambodian chapei master Kong Nay, legendary performance artist Joey Arias, tap dancers Jimmy Slide and Gregory Hines and US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, to name a few. He has appeared on over 50 albums by various artists and has written music for film, television and radio, including the theme for the National Public Radio (NPR) show On the Media (which boasts a listenership of over 2,000,000 people), the score for Two Days, a play written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donald Margulies and the theme for The Conversation, a webcast talk show hosted by Pharrell Williams.

In 2005, 2008 and 2013, Ben was a featured composer, arranger and performer with Jazz Sinfonica, an 80-piece orchestra based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The orchestra performed arrangements of compositions from his various albums. Ben performed his Carnegie Hall debut as a leader in February 2012.


Called “one of today’s best young jazz musicians” by the Boston Globe and a “visionary composer, adventurous improviser, and strong organizational force on the New York City jazz scene” by JazzTimes, Ben has released 13 albums — Quiet Revolution (2018, Sonic Camera Records), Layers of the City (2017, Sonic Camera Records), The Stars Look Very Different Today (2013, Sonic Camera Records) and  Action-Refraction (2011), Think Free (2009), Little Things Run the World (2008), Cowboy Justice (2006), Buzz (2004), Peace Pipe (2002), Riding the Nuclear Tiger (2001), Third Eye (1999), Medicine Wheel (1998) and Seven Arrows (1996) on Palmetto Records — all of which showcase Ben’s forward-thinking vision as a bassist, composer, arranger, producer, and mixing engineer, as well as his hands-on approach to his craft.

7 of Ben’s albums have reached #1 on the CMJ national jazz radio charts, often remaining in the top 10 for many weeks, garnering him 8 SESAC National Performance Awards. His album Action-Refraction was named one of the Best Albums of 2011 (of any genre) by NPR and Time Out New York. His albums have consistently been named as among the best of the year by publications such as Billboard, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, Jazz Times, Jazz Journalists Association, Downbeat Critics Poll, All About Jazz, Coda (Canada), Jazzit (Italy) and Jazz Review (UK), among many others.

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Primary Instrument

Bass, acoustic


New York City

Willing to teach

Advanced only


Since joining the faculty of The New School's, Contemporary and Performing Arts program in 2011, he has taught classes and led ensembles on subjects ranging from the music of Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Herbie Nichols and R&B to advanced concepts of improvisation and composition, as well as individual bass and composition instruction. He has developed or helped to develop four classes for the University: Entrepreneurship in Music, The Entrepreneurial Musician, Senior Seminar and Socially Engaged Artistry

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From: Frank Kimbrough 2003 - 2006
By Ben Allison

Knit Wit

From: Hypocrisy Democracy
By Ben Allison


From: The Stars Look Very Different...
By Ben Allison

Ben Allison Albums

Ben Allison Tour

Past Concerts

  Mon, Feb 13
New York, NY
Guitar Masters Series: Steve Cardenas
Zinc Bar
Mon, Feb 13. 7:00 pm
  Mon, Feb 13
New York, NY
Guitar Masters Series: Steve Cardenas
Zinc Bar
Mon, Feb 13. 8:30 pm