Take Five With Jimmy Bennington

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Meet Jimmy Bennington: James Arnold Bennington, Born 22 May, 1970 in Columbus, OH. He was raised in Detroit, MI until the age of nine when his family moved to Houston, TX. He began music studies there on clarinet, playing the instrument for three years before switching to drums at age thirteen. Primarily self-taught, Bennington played in marching and concert band and small combo groups throughout middle and high school.

A highly developed jazz and blues player while in TX, he was taken under the wing of friend and mentor Malcolm Pinson. It was during this period that Bennington began studying informally with Elvin Jones over a period of eight years, eventually becoming band manager and drum tech (2000-2002) and touring the U.S. and Europe.

Bennington works as a sideman or leader with his group Colour and Sound. He has played and recorded with Julian Priester, Perry Robinson, Bert Wilson, Michael Bisio, and others.

Based in Chicago, after long musical residences in Texas (1990-1998) and the West Coast (1998-2006) Bennington performs in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South America.

Instrument(s): drums/cymbals.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Professor Perry Kay (middle school band director), Elvin Jones (drums) Malcolm Pinson (drums) G.T. Hogan (drums) Ben Turner (drums) Bert Wilson (saxophone) Julian Priester (trombone) Perry Robinson (clarinet).

Influences: Roy Haynes, Elvin, Paul Motian, Duke Ellington, Papa Jo, Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, The Volcano Art Blakey, The Sphere That Was Thelonious, Sun Ra and His Arkestra, Sunny Murray, Pee Wee Russell, all the greats.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... Since I was a kid.

Your sound and approach to music: Mostly acoustic. I love to blend traditional jazz in all its forms with improvised music. I want an honest sound and always a heartfelt approach to the music. I like American Free Music as a description.

Your teaching approach: That music is an emotional and evocative art; an open, magic language. If you listen to, learn about the music you love and really practice, it will come out in your playing. That said, Basic co-ordination, rhythms, standard forms, and concepts re: collective improvisation and solo performance.

Your dream band: Albert Mangelsdorff, Perry Robinson, Dave Burrell, Wayne Dockery.

Anecdote from the road: Once while playing on a Friday night to a full house at Jazz De Opus in Portland, OR I noticed the audience really coming alive. I opened my eyes and grinned at the saxophonist who was busy playing and I closed my eyes again and went back to playing.

After more from the audience, I opened my eyes and saw for the first time what all the commotion was about...a bum had wandered into the club and sat right on the stage front and center! He was waving his arms at the audience and taunting everyone. As soon as everything registered, I gave him a few bass drum bombs as fair warning. I stood up while swinging on my ride cymbal, and with my right hand, I leaned over and stuck my drumstick in good under his left shoulder blade. He got up real quick and out of the club and I got a standing ovation!

Favorite venue: Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge, Chicago.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Jimmy Bennington/Julian Priester Portraits and Silhouettes TSP1005 (available on CDBaby). It was a rare chance for me to play in an intimate duo setting with one of my heroes. I think the end result is an accomplishment I will always be very proud of.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? The continuing preservation and development of this music.

Did you know... I am an adopted child since the age of two along with my brother Roger when he was nine.

My uncle on my mothers side of the family adopted us, and in 2000 I met my long lost family of two sisters and my older brother David, and two years ago, I met a 1st cousin from my dad's side of the family and he told me all about his childhood memories of my dad Arthur James LeMaster and my four uncles. They went rabbit hunting every Thanksgiving in Ohio, and when my dad would aim his gun, instead of shooting, he'd yell out "Rabbit!" I loved that.

How do you use the internet to help your career? I just try to gather all my pertinent info, and add to my resume. I also send this out to booking contacts, review publication, music contacts, friends, etc and try to keep track of what is out there. My career expanded notably once I got involved online. For the most part, the web has replaced the traditional press kit that I used to mail out, i.e. cd, reviews, pictures, packaging, etc. thus saving me a lot of time and money.

CDs you are listening to now: Otha Turner, Everybody's Hollerin' Goat (Birdman); Sunny Murray, We Are Not AT The Opera (Ermite); Henry Grimes, The Call (ESP); Roy Brooks, Duet in Detroit (Enja).

Desert Island picks: Kenny Millions, No Money, No Honey with Sunny Murray (Hum Ha); Bill Evans Live at the Village Vanguard, with Philly Joe Jones (Verve); Max Roach/Abdullah Ibrahim, Streams Of Consciousness (Piadrum); Beaver Harris, Thank You For Your Ears (Dizim); John Coltrane, Live in Seattle (Impulse).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? It is and will always hang in there. I think the money situation is very poor, and the opportunities to play fewer and fewer. There are many cliques here and elsewhere, and it seems to me that European Jazz artists are getting more and more on all fronts. I don't always understand how Europeans can come here and work and Americans don't get the same deference and consideration here or over there.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Know the history. Master your instrument. Teach others your knowledge. At all costs! Keep playing and recording this music

What is in the near future? An upcoming trio record featuring Julian Priester and NOW Orchestra bassist Paul Blaney. First trip to Paris (September 2007).

By Day: Recently finished a long stint as a dishwasher at a cafe and am playing and teaching privately more. I am also a freelance writer and have published articles/interviews in Modern Drummer, Jazz Profile, and Cadence Jazz and Blues Magazine.

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