Eastside Punks Podcast #12 - The Great John Benitez
Music producer/composer Roman Rojas and singer songwriter Sharin Toribio of www.eastsidepunks.com go back in time to a 2007 interview with legendary Grammy Award winning musician/composer/arranger John Benitez. They also listen and react to some of the commercial music Roman Rojas produced a few years ago with John Benitez and talk about his incredible contribution to the arts.
About John Benitez - acoustic and electric bass
Grammy award-winning bassist John Benitez, born in Rio Piedras Puerto Rico, started playing gospel music in church at the age of thirteen. Already a gifted musician, John began his formal education at “Escuela Libre de Musica” followed by study at the University of Puerto Rico and later the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music with master bassist Federico Silva.
By age nineteen, John was the first-call bassist in San Juan's thriving Jazz and Latin music scenes. He performed with, among others, such well-known artists as Chick Corea, Lucecita Benitez, Batacumbele, Lalo Rodriguez, Cuco Peña, Roberto Roena, and Justo Betancourt. In his early twenties, he toured with Batacumbele to Columbia, South America where he continued to play and study music. Always in demand, John was asked to play with some of the top names in the country like Joe Madrid and often accompanied international touring artists like trumpeter “Chocolate” Armenteros.
In 1993, John move to New York and attended the City College of New York where he studied with the legendary acoustic bassist, Ron Carter and later with the contra bass guitarist Anthony Jackson. His education, however, was not limited to formal classroom study. John learned on the bandstand performing with some of the finest Jazz and Latin musicians including, Wynton Marsalis, Tito Puente, Michele Camilo, Dave Valentin, Eddie Palmieri, Bobby Watson, David Sanchez, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, Danilo Perez, Kenny Kirkland, Will Calhoun, Vinny Valentino, Chucho Valdez, Don Pullen, Dave Samuels, and Mongo Santamaria, to name just few.
He recorded with Roy Hargrove's Crisol band (whose recording, “Habana,” was awarded the Grammy for best Latin jazz performance in 1997), David Sanchez (the Grammy nominated, “Obsesion”) Tito Puente, Hilton Ruiz, Antonio Hart, the Tropi-Jazz All Stars, the Mingus Big Band, the Caribbean Jazz Project, and Eddie Palmieri.
John has participated in two instructional videos with master percussionist Giovanni Hildalgo and Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa. He can also be seen on the national tv and cable shows, Good Morning America, The Today Show and BET On Jazz.
As a sideman and a featured special guest, John has performed in all of the major jazz festivals and venues around the world including Turkey, Jordan (where he played for the royal family), South America, Canada, Norway, Finland, and all over Europe. John was chosen by the United States Information Agency and the Kennedy Center to represent the United States as a Jazz Ambassador on a tour of South America.
John has played and recorded with some of the finiest Jazz, Latin, and R&B musicians and has learned something from each and every one of them. This diversity of influence and experience is reflected in his latest project and first recording as a leader, “Descarga in New York,” released in August 2001 on Khaeon World Music. Together with his Trio (the gifted pianist/composer Luis Perdomo and the powerhouse drummer Dafnis Preito) and special guest percussionist, Richie Flores and the tenor saxophonists Ravi Coltrane, John has created a strong musical statement which highlights his prodigious talents as a bassist--both acoustic and electric-composer, arranger, and and producer.
Benitez was the bassist on Ray Barretto’s last record “Standards Rican-ditioned,” in 2006, which was a set of jazz standards performed by an all Puerto Rican ensemble, which incidentally included the late Hilton Ruiz on piano.
Although Benitez is extremely fluid in the jazz idiom, he excels at interpreting the rhythms and styles of his native Afro-Caribbean region and the entire Pan American music book. As he puts it himself, “For me it's all the same, one great dance music, all the Caribbean, South America and New Orleans are but an extension of African music, music with that special bounce. That's what I like the most.” John Benitez, an excellent example of a true musician, an educator, artist, gentleman and a spiritual human being.