As someone once put it, you've got hair, teeth, and claws.
Although only twenty-one years old, pianist Ben Neuman is already attracting notice from the most respected voices in Chicago jazz. He has been selected to perform at the 2009 Chicago Jazz Festival on the new Young Lions Stage, introduced to feature upcoming Chicago talent.
On his debut album, Introductions, Ben is joined by his trio -- Dennis Carroll on bass and George Fludas on drums, one of the most in-demand rhythm sections in Chicago. Introductions features a set of strikingly mature compositions and arrangements, along with some strikingly mature playing. Larry Kart (Chicago Tribune, Downbeat) describes Ben's playing as that of a "deep melodist" capable of reaching an "almost operatic peak of intensity". His playing, Kart continues, has "hair, teeth, and claws"; it demonstrates a musical range, depth, and control rare for someone his age.
Born in New Jersey, Ben started playing piano at the age of five. From the beginning, he had a strong impulse to improvise, often to the frustration of his classical teachers. He went on to study jazz in high school with many great jazz educators, including Dr. Billy Taylor, Joanne Brackeen, Jim McNeely, and John Blake (a long-time sideman of McCoy Tyner's). Ben's playing developed enough that many of these musical mentors (Dr. Taylor in particular) advised him not to attend college for music, but instead to take advantage of the opportunity to develop other interests and skills. He had more to gain from getting a college education while working his way onto a jazz scene than he did from the sometimes-isolated environment of college jazz education.
So, he relocated to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago, where he could spend his days earning a degree in Philosophy and his nights cutting his teeth on the Chicago jazz scene, jamming, working, and studying with many of its best musicians. Ben has performed at many of Chicago's major venues, including the Jazz Showcase, Pops for Champagne, Andy's Jazz Club, The Velvet Lounge, and Pete Miller's, both as a sideman and a leader.
Ben graduates college with a wealth of musical experience already under his belt, along with a critically-acclaimed debut album and a spot at the Chicago Jazz Festival. If his achievements so far are any indication, he will be one of the major voices of the next generation of Chicago jazz.