Ben Waltzer is from Lansing, Michigan and attended the Interlochen Arts Academy where he won awards from Downbeat magazine and the National Association of Jazz Educators. He then enrolled in a double-degree program at the New England Conservatory--where he studied with pianists Geri Allen and Bevan Manson, and saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre--and Tufts University. In 1991 Ben transferred to Harvard University to study American History and Literature. While at Harvard, he wrote a thesis on the jazz historian, essayist and novelist Albert Murray. He graduated magna cum laude in 1993 and was the recipient of Harvard’s Braverman Award for artistic excellence.
Ben then moved to New York to pursue music and soon began working with a wide range of young musicians including Bill McHenry, Reid Anderson, Jordi Rossy, and Leon Parker. In 1996 he recorded his first CD, “For Good,” featuring Mr. Rossy and bassist Anderson for the burgeoning Fresh Sound/New Talent record label. Later that year, Ben moved to Barcelona for a year to perform and teach. There he toured with Spanish saxophonist Perico Sambeat and recorded “Jazz is Where You Find It: Live at the Pipa Club” with the tenor saxophonist McHenry, bassist Alexis Cuadrado, and drummer Jo Krause. Cuadernos De Jazz, the Spanish jazz magazine, named it the third-best worldwide jazz release of 1997. Cadence magazine called his next record, “In Metropolitan Motion,” (2000) a “winner because it revels in the jazz tradition rather than exploits it.” David R. Adler referred to it in Allaboutjazz.com as an “inspired statement.” Piano legend Ahmad Jamal called his next record, “One Hundred Dreams Ago,” (2005) a trio effort with Matt Penman and Gerald Cleaver, “brilliantly performed.”
In 2002 Ben also began also working in television, appearing as a regular on Isaac Mizrahi’s shows on the Oxygen and E! Entertainment networks. As musical director and bandleader, he composed theme music for both programs as well as music for Mizrahi’s Target commercials. On set he worked with Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Elmo, Huey Lewis, Brian McKnight, Jennifer Holiday, Natalie Portman, Mark Morris, S. Epatha Merkerson, Valerie Harper, Christine Ebersole and many others.
Waltzer appears regularly with his own ensembles and others’ featuring his colleagues Bill McHenry, Gerald Cleaver, Duane Eubanks, Eric McPherson, Tony Malaby, Ugonna Okegwo, Matt Penman, Chris Lightcap, Taylor Haskins, Anthony Pinciotti, George Schuller, Alan Ferber, Andrew Rathbun, Neil Miner, Rudy Royston, Joe Strasser, and Stefan Schatz. He is a member of Cleaver’s “Violet Hour,” with Jeremy Pelt, JD Allen, Lightcap, and Andrew Bishop.
Ben is the Acting Director of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program at Columbia University, a faculty member at the Maine Jazz Camp, and has written about jazz for The New York Times, JAZZIZ, the Newark Star Ledger, and other publications. He is a 2004 recipient of both Chamber Music America’s New Works grant and the CMA/ASCAP Award for Jazz Ensemble. In 2007 he was named by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s top ten emerging artists.
Ben lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Yasmin Spiro, and daughter, Bella.