Roni Ben-hur

Roni Ben-Hur, jazz guitarist, has a solid reputation as an educator and musician. He is known for his golden tone and improvisational brilliance. His compositional lyricism, charm, and ability to charm students, peers, and listeners alike. Gary Giddins, a noted jazz critic, wrote in The Village Voice that Ben-Hur is “a limber, inventive guitarist… [He’s] an guitarist who knows both the changes and his mind.” Ben-Hur was born in Israel in 1962 and is now a US citizen. Time Out New York has called him “a formidable, consummately lyrical guitar player.” According to the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, Ben-Hur is a “deep musician and storyteller” who has a captivating way of combining engaging rhythms with engaging notes. Ben-Hur is also the author of several highly acclaimed educational products, including Talk Jazz: Guitar and the instructional DVD Chordability. He has also directed international jazz camps for almost 15 years. Russell Malone, a jazz guitar legend, said it all: “Everything Roni makes is beautiful.” He has the magic touch. His latest album, Our Thing (Motema Music 2012), is a co-led trio project featuring Panamanian-born bassist Santi Debiano and Brazilian drummer Duduka D Fonseca. Our Thing is marked by soulful grooves and telepathic interplay and a rich and organic ensemble sound. It includes deeply swinging renditions of TheloniousMonk’s “Green Chimneys” and Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” to a pair poetic tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim and a number of beautiful originals that channel the players’ Middle Eastern and Latin heritages through a postbop prism. Ben-Hur’s “Anna’s Dance” is a new rendition of an old favorite from his songbook, which he wrote for one of his daughters. DownBeat called Our Thing “mesmerizing”, while New York City Jazz Record described it as “funny and relaxed.” The Buffalo News described the album as “delectable jazz internationalism” of near-Olympic quality. Ben-Hur is a fluent and skilled player. Debriano is a great pianist. Ben-Hur was born in large families and moved from Tunisia to Dimona (Israel) where he learned good values early on. As a teenager, the guitarist started playing in wedding bands, and in Tel Aviv clubs. He was captivated by recordings of Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, and Kenny Burrell. Segovia’s classical Spanish repertoire was a favorite of the young musician, who discovered a Moorish sound that matched his family’s North African roots. After moving to New York in 1985 he fell in love with Brazilian music, especially through the work and compositions of Baden Powell, the guitarist-composer. Ben-Hur was lucky to have been taken under the wing Barry Harris, a veteran jazz pianist and Grammy Award-winner. He was a Monk disciple who had led the Jazz Cultural Theater in Manhattan during the mid-’80s. Harris was a musician and the young guitarist learned valuable life lessons and musical wisdom from him. As an educator, Ben-Hur has had an international reputation. Teaching has been an increasingly important part of Ben-Hur’s life. Ben-Hur is the founder and director for the jazz program at Lucy Moses School at The Kaufman Center in Manhattan. He has taught many jazz musicians ensemble playing, improvisation, and the guitar. Ben-Hur also led jazz camps in Patterson, N.Y. with Santi Debriano in South of France. He also ran camps in Patterson, N.Y. with Amy London, a company he founded and runs. Ben-Hur has been leading jazz camps in Cabo Rojo (Puerto Rico), in Istanbul, Turkey and in Schroon Lake. There, he teaches workshops in Brazilian jazz, Latin jazz, straight-ahead and Latin jazz with Debriano, as well as other teachers. Ben-Hur is also a co-leader of the Samba Meets Jazz camps at Paraty (Brazilian) and Bar Harbor (Maine). Ben-Hur’s album Mojave was released by Nilson Matta (Samba Meets Jazz Camps, 2011). It also featured Victor Lewis as percussionist and Cafe as drummer. This album was Motema’s second in the Jazz Therapy series. Ben-Hur co-founded the series with the label in order to raise awareness and money for the Dizzy Geillespie Memorial Fund at New Jersey’s Englewood Hospital. The foundation provides uninsured jazz musicians with care. Smile was the first album in this series. It was Ben-Hur’s 2008 duo with Gene Bertoncini, a veteran guitarist. Matta and Ben-Hur are both masters of their respective musical traditions, Matta being the bassist with samba and Matta the guitarist. Mojave is a collaboration between Victor Lewis, a New York jazz drummer, and Cafe, a Brazilian percussionist. They include pieces by Jobim, Baden Powell, and Pixinguinha (choro pioneer), as well as originals written by all four players. Ben-Hur contributed the moody beauty “Eretz”, (Hebrew for land), which is another of his most beloved tunes, interpreted fresh. The Rochester City Newspaper gave the album a glowing review: “Mojave has magic from beginning to end… It is a marriage of Matta’s samba music and Ben-Hur’s swing that sounds like a match made in heaven. Smile, Ben-Hur and Gene Bertoncini’s dual-guitar album, received equally high praise. The New York Times praised the “sophisticated” and “lyrical” musicianship. DownBeat called it “stunning” as the songs range from the Charlie Chaplin title song and the Arlen Mercer standard “Out of This World” through an inventive take on Roberta Flack’s hit, “Killing Me Softly.” The album also features two of Ben-Hur’s personal standards – his “Anna’s Dance,” which he wrote for one of his daughters, and “Sofia’s Butterfly,” penned by the other. The Wall Street Journal’s Nat Hentoff, jazz sage, praised the “lyrically-meditative dialog” between the guitarists. Meanwhile the Washington Post was impressed by the “dazzling dexterity of these duets and their tasteful elegance.” Fortuna (Motema 2009) and Keepin’ It Open(Motema 2007) are two other important albums in Ben-Hur’s discography. These were quintets with Ronnie Matthews, a piano veteran, and Lewis Nash (swinging drummer), plus Steve Kroon, percussionist. The group also features Santi Debriano, a bassist, and Jeremy Pelt, a trumpeter. They have a broad repertoire, including Monk’s rousing “Think of One” as well as a dark-hued Sephardic melody called “Eshkolit”. Ben-Hur’s love of Spanish classical guitar and his Sephardic Jewish heritage inspired him to recast Granados’ “Andaluza”, a piece for an ensemble. The guitarist’s originals also include the finger-snapping “My Man, Harris”, a tribute to Barry Harris. JazzTimes called it “a delight from beginning to end,” while Scott Yanow, a critic for All Music, said that Ben-Hur could “swing as hard as anybody.” Fortuna features Rufus Reid as double bass. Ben-Hur recast Albeniz’s “Granada” and shows a keen interest in the Moorish-influenced early Israeli pop music. The disc also features two Jobim tracks, including the Irving Berlin ballad “I Got Lost in His Arms” as well as Ben-Hur’s original funky “Guess Who” Dan Morgenstern, jazz scholar, listed Fortuna among his top 10 discs for 2009. JazzTimes described Fortuna as the following: “Ben-Hur’s melodic, melodic, and emotive playing is supported with a tight-knit band of stellar musicians… His skill and warm tone underline the band’s chemistry.” All About Jazz stated that “Fortuna” is a shining ode to the joy of life. The guitarist Ben-Hur was joined by Rufus Reid, John Hicks, and Leroy Williams on Signature (Reservoir), 2005. Steve Kroon was also present. These tracks include Ben-Hur’s first appearance of “Eretz”, as well as two pieces by Villa-Lobos, and tunes by Jobim u0026 Cole Porter. DownBeat stated that “Signature” is a collection containing exemplaryly performed music. It combines the six-stringer’s creative melody reading, soloing, and comping with the support work of outstanding sidemen. Ben-Hur’s original compositions also impress, starting with the opening song ‘Mama Bee’, which features a stunning guitar solo and continues on to ‘Eretz’, a beautiful ballad that is meant to be a tribute to Israel. It feels like an instant standard. Ben-Hur assembled a group of elders for Anna’s Dance (Reservoir 2001), including Barry Harris on piano and Charles Davis on saxophone; Walter Booker on double bass; and Leroy Williams on drums. Highlights include Ben-Hur debuting his title composition and the Billy Strayhorn song “A Flower Is a Lovesome thing”. Gary Giddins, Village Voice, said that this subtle exercise in bebop equilibrium is as easy as a cool breeze. Charles Davis and Ben-Hur, who swap their Sun Ra baritones for a more refined tenor, can speak Harris’s language like natives. Two bebop showcases were the catalyst for Ben-Hur’s discography. Sofia’s Butterfly (TCB) saw Leroy Williams, guitarist, and Lisle Atkinson as well. It was a promising gig. He also performed Monk’s “Four in One” with great ease. Not to mention his first performances of the original title tune and “Fortuna.” Ben-Hur’s first record was with Backyard (TCB), 1996) which featured him with the Barry Harris Trio. Ben-Hur is also a leader of his own bands. He has shared the stage with greats like Cecil Payne and Etta Jones, Charles McPherson and Clark Terry. Ben-Hur performs regularly at the best jazz venues in the United States and at major festivals around the globe. He is an educator and has created jazz programs in New York City high school. In addition, he presents workshops for students from all walks of life in both the U.S.A. and Europe. The DVD Chordability (Motema 2011, 2011) contains 20 lessons on jazz harmony and chord voicings for intermediate and advanced guitar players. With the publication Talk Jazz Guitar (Mel Bay 2003), he translated “The Barry Harris method” into guitar. This book has been published in English as well as Japanese. Visit

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