Contemporary music that crosses genres with ease has received much attention recently, but for veterans of the New York freelance scene, this fluidity has been a fundamental part of musical life for decades. Trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader Ben Bierman has absorbed his wide-ranging experience in jazz, contemporary classical music, salsa, and cabaret and synthesized these influences into two song cycles, Beyond Romance and Six Songs. The streaming songs are available below for listening.
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Beyond Romance, with lyrics by the songwriting luminary Earl Shuman (writer of "Hey There Lonely Girl" and "Seven Lonely Days" among many others), is a song cycle that chronicles the depth of middle age relationships. It is a sophisticated blend of contemporary art song, cabaret, jazz, and Latin jazz performed beautifully here by critically acclaimed jazz and Broadway performers Hilary Gardner, Matthew Scott, and pianist Jeb Patton. The cycle has hints of a range of influences, from Sondheim to Bolcom to Cole Porter, but is mostly characterized by Bierman's tasteful ease with drawing from various sources.
A note of thanks from Ben: I want to thank the wonderful musicians who performed on Beyond Romance. Hilary Gardner was my student in some classes at Brooklyn College, and I knew back then that her beautiful and skilled voice, as well as her versatility as both a jazz and classical singer (and country, for that matter!) would be perfect for my music. I was right. Matthew Scott came in for the first rehearsal for a performance we had and was letter perfect instantly, and I love his spirit, accuracy, and intonation. These singers make it sound easy, but this music is hard. I love Jeb Patton. He can play anything, and he is just the perfect pianist for me. In the studio while we recorded this he was perfect every time. His tempos and swing, his ability to lead and follow the singers, his interpretations, all are amazing. Thank you, Hilary, Matt, and Jeb!
Rounding out the recording is Bierman's subtle Six Songs, a collection of songs without words alluding to his experience in jazz, Latin jazz, and pop music. It features his performances on trumpet, piano, and bass, alongside his son Emanuel on cajón.
Another note of thanks from Ben: I played all the parts on Six Songs, so I can't thank or laud myself, but I can thank my lovely son, Emanuel, for doing such a wonderful job playing cajón on these songs. He is a terrific player that can play anything (try him on any odd time signature and he will outplay you, I'm sure), and we have played and practiced together since he was five. What a joy to work with him. Thanks, buddy! And as long as I am thanking people, my son Eli built this awesome site. Thanks, Eli!
Site Design by Eli Bierman: elibierman.com
Photos by Todd Weinstein: toddweinstein.com