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Take Five With Ben Syversen

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Ben Syversen:

During the nearly three years he has lived in Brooklyn, Ben has immersed himself fully in all that the city has to offer. In addition to performing with well established improvising musicians such as bassist Reuben Radding, he has been an active participant in the Balkan music scene, performing regularly with Raya Brass Band, Ansambl Mastika, and more. He has toured throughout the US and Japan, and has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival.



I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I quit the baseball team in sixth grade and told my parents and coach that I wanted to spend more time playing trumpet. None of them believed me, and I don't think I quite knew what I meant, but here I am today. I guess I knew more than I thought I did.

Your sound and approach to music: I draw influence from a lot of sources, but lately I've been very interested in using the range of sounds available to a band as a group of improvisers and instrumentalists to create some kind of interesting or surprising effect. It's not so much about solos as it is about how the whole band sounds. There is a strong rock element to a lot of what I do because I'm a product of my time and place, but I like to use this whenever possible as one ingredient in a bigger picture rather than just writing rock songs or head-solo-head jazz tunes or something.

Your dream band:

I really like the idea of a group over a collection of great individual musicians. A lot of the "super band" type configurations I've seen play have never really done it for me. I'd say my dream band is the band that I'm playing with now (Xander Naylor and Jeremy Gustin), after we've been playing together and developing musically for ten or twenty years.

Favorite venue:

I like playing Barbes a lot. They treat musicians nicely there, people come to see the music, and best of all, it's a short walk from my house.

Did you know...

I keep a beehive with a friend on a rooftop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Desert Island picks:

Miles Davis/Gil Evans, Porgy and Bess (Columbia);

The Beatles. The White Album (Apple);

Lester Bowie, The Great Pretender (ECM);

Mos Def/Talib Kweli, Black Star (Rawkus);

Lutoslawski, Cello Concerto.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Umm...as Facebook would say, "it's complicated."

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? It should be open to the diversity and eclecticism of modern society. Many artists are doing this in their own way which is great. This might mean that it's hard to really tell what is and isn't jazz anymore, but that's ok; we are musicians making art music, and the label isn't as important as how it grows and changes with the world around us.

What is in the near future? I'm trying to keep my regular band active as well as starting to think about writing new tunes for a second album. I've also been working on a new project with a couple European musicians: guitarist Roberto Pianca and drummer Flin Van Hemmen. We have a few gigs lined up in September and October while Roberto is in town from Switzerland.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Something geeky. Maybe a math teacher, maybe something science and math oriented that pays better than that.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Ben Syversen


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