Every Monday and Tuesday we present Chicago’s top jazz artists in a lively atmosphere, full of cocktail-shaking and spirited conversation.
- Jimmy Bennington – drums
- Fred Jackson Jr. – saxophones/flute
- Artie Black – saxophone
- Dustin Laurenzi – saxophone
- Mike Harmon – bass
James Bennington was born in Columbus, Ohio, May 22, 1970. He was raised in Detroit, Michigan until age nine when his family moved to Houston, Texas. It was there that he began music studies on clarinet, playing the instrument for three years. He switched to drums at the age of fourteen. Though largely self-taught, his education has come from concert and marching bands in Middle and High School, brief formal instruction, countless Jazz and Blues sessions, and work as a sideman and leader. Getting his start in Texas afforded Bennington the chance to play with local veterans such as Blues guitar greats Kinney Abair and Little Joe Washington, saxophonist Terrance Tony, guitarist Susan Alcorn, trumpeter Tex Allen, and renowned vocalist Horace Grigsby. In addition to drummer G.T. Hogan and bassist Lawrence Evans, longtime Billy Harper drummer Malcolm Pinson became a friend and mentor, eventually using Bennington as a substitute when he was away.
Other artists Bennington has been privileged to meet and learn from include multi-reedist Chuck Carter, saxophonist Bert Wilson, pianist Eric Lewis, drummers Roy Haynes, Ron Enyard, James Zitro, Billy Mintz, John Spencer, and the legendary Elvin Jones. In fact, after several years of informal study with the former Coltrane drummer, Jimmy served as band manager and drum tech from 2000-2002 for the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine touring the U.S. and Europe.
A distinctive sound has forged opportunities for him to play and record with a diverse array of artists from the Jazz and Improvised Music communities and beyond, and include clarinetist Perry Robinson, trombonists Julian Priester, Andre Hayward, and Michael Vlatkovich, saxophonists Bert Wilson, John Gross, Seth Paynter, and Didier Haboyan, trumpeters Itaru Oki, Jim Knodle, Farnell Newton, pianists Gordon Lee, Art Resnik, David Haney, and Jobic LeMassan, guitarists John Stowell, Tom McNalley, and Bill Horist, violinist Tom Swafford, and bassists Ed Schuller, Michael Bisio, and Benjamin Duboc.
Based in Chicago, after long periods in Texas (1990-1998) and the West Coast (1998-2006), Bennington appears at a number of venues as a sideman or band leader with his group, Colour and Sound and performs in the U.S. with regular visits to Canada, Europe, and South America. In addition to standard musical settings, Jimmy makes it a point to play at public schools, community centers, festivals, and hospitals as part of a longstanding relationship with the Children’s Cancer Association. Live radio broadcasts include appearances on KBOO, KTRU, KHMD, KEXP, WNUR, and WZRD, as well as an appearance on Chicago’s WGN Television.
Chicago artists Jimmy has worked with include veteran multi-reedist Rich Corpolongo, saxophonists Fred Jackson, Jeff Marx, and Ed House (AACM), trombonist Jeb Bishop, cornettist Josh Berman, pianists Jim Baker and Ben Boye, vibraphonist Jim Cooper, cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarists Dave Miller, Bill MacKay, Jason Steele, Mr. G and the Mystery Band, Doug Blake, and bassists Brian Sandstrom, Michael Staron, Anton Hatwich, and Rollo Radford of Sun Ra Arkestra fame.
Visits to Paris in September of 2007 and 2008 provided two career highlights; the opportunity for Bennington to sit in with trumpet legend Ted Curson and pianist Alain Jean Marie at the Sunset Jazz Club in 2007, and Jimmy’s Paris debut at the Paris underground club L’ Attier Tampon- Ramier on Sept. 21, 2008 with veteran guests: bassist Benjamin Duboc, trumpet/ flutes Itaru Oki, and alto saxophonist Didier Haboyan. During his time in Paris, he was a session guest on the famed Rue des Lombards’ Duc des Lombards, Le Baser Sale, the Sunset, and au Croissant in Montmartre. A recording session with Bennington, Benjamin Duboc and pianist Jobic Le Massan, ‘Walk to Montreuil’, recorded September 19, 2008 (TBR).
Bennington has performed in Canada as guest artist with the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto as well as with saxophonist Graham Ord and bassist Paul Blaney of the NOW Orchestra in Vancouver. He has also been a regular guest at the Jazz Zone in Lima, Peru.
He has worked with bagpipes, folk and Mariachi musicians, DJ’s, poets, tap and interpretive dancers, and has performed with Rob Scheps Salon Des Refuses Big Band as well as with vocalists Stephanie Porter, Joanne Klein, Karen Shivers, and Saalik Ziyad.
Embracing a broad spectrum of the Jazz art form, ranging from the Great American Songbook to New Music, Jimmy Bennington and has developed an inimitable musical atmosphere that showcases his collaborators creative talents and places the drum in the role of timekeeper, colorist, and conductor. In keeping with the traditions of Jazz and Improvised Music, he employs strong elements of Blues and Folk music to explore, propel, cajole, and inspire musicians and audiences alike. For nearly twenty years his intent remains one of truth and honesty of expression.