Ben Perowsky (born May 12, 1966) is a New York City based drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger and record producer.
Exposed early on to jazz from his parents, Frank and Ginger Perowsky, and teacher Bobby Thomas, as well as rock and roll from his older brother Ricky, Ben watched the great musicians playing at that time in New York City. He attended The High School of Music and Art in Harlem (now LaGuardia Arts). While playing drums in a high school jazz ensemble, Ben played with Dizzy Gillespie and Jimmy Heath. While growing up, he also played with his father, a well-known clarinetist, saxophonist and arranger. His mother, who worked with dance pioneer Charles Weidman among other choreographers, also influenced Ben with her Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder record collection. This mixture of rock, blues, funk and jazz made an impression on Ben, who then saw opportunities for crossing genre barriers, and went on to incorporate this in his works.
Ben plays Zildjian cymbals and Vic Firth sticks exclusively.
After high school, Ben studied at Boston's Berklee School of Music with Alan Dawson. Among the many musicians he met were John Medeski and Dave Fiucznski, who were studying at the nearby New England Conservatory.
Returning to New York City, Ben spent a brief year at Manhattan School of Music. Soon after, he was hired by legendary saxophonist James Moody. The following year, he went on tour with Rickie Lee Jones double billing with Ray Charles. In 1987, he worked regularly in NYC with guitarist Jeff Pevar and keyboardist/bassist Morris Pleasure. Ben's freelance career soon began to blossom taking him all over the world with vibraphonist Roy Ayers, with whom he also backed Tom Brown, and Lonnie Liston Smith. Around this time Ben also worked with modern jazz team David Liebman and Richie Beirach.
After playing regularly with Mike Stern at the 55 Bar in 1990, saxophonist Bob Berg hired Ben to tour and play on his next two records. Mike Stern's trio continued to tour and record throughout the early 1990s. At this time Ben also recorded with pianist/producer Jim Beard, legendary baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias.
Concurrently, Ben began performing frequently at clubs in downtown NYC, becoming a mainstay at The Knitting Factory and later at Tonic. There he first worked with John Zorn in an early line up of the band Masada with Marc Ribot, as well as the band Spanish Fly with Marcus Rojas, Steven Bernstein and David Tronzo. He did a number of tours at this time with The Fertile Crescent, Chunk, and Wayne Horvitz's The President. He also recorded two projects with John Cale. Ben later played percussion in John Lurie's Lounge Lizards and on the record Queen of All Ears.
Groups Led and Co-led
In 1988, Ben started a band with two other High School of Music and Art alumni, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Fima Ephron. This band became Lost Tribe with the final edition of saxophonist David Binney and guitarist David Gilmore. They immediately became a ground-breaking group in the NY's club circuit, cutting through genres playing in rock and jazz clubs alike. In 1991 Ben met producer Walter Becker (Steely Dan) who asked Lost Tribe to record at his then studio in Maui, Hawaii. The Lost Tribe sound was a blend of various genres with dense harmony and dance rhythms. The band released three critically acclaimed records Lost Tribe, Soulfish, Many Lifetimes and toured extensively in the US and Europe. In addition to co-leading/ drumming in the band, Ben occasionally took on the role of rapper. Becker later had this rhythm section record on his first solo record.
The Ben Perowsky Trio was formed with Chris Speed and Scott Colley in 1996, Ben's first release as a leader in 1999 for Frank Perowsky's label JazzKey. One track on this release was placed by Hal Wilner in the 2006 film "Talladega Nights" during actor Sacha Baron Cohen's entrance to a "redneck" bar.
Ben created his own label El Destructo Records and released two CDs. El Destructo: Volume I was created through a series billed as "Beatshop" early that winter. "Beatshop" served as the workshop for a new sound Ben was developing with Glenn Patscha and Markus Lyons Miller. It was a blending of slow dub style improv with dark ambience and sparse vocals. El Destructo: Volume II Moodswing Orchestra, expands on this idea with the addition of four other instrumentalists and five vocalists.
In 2003, Ben produced a record called Bop on Pop for his father Frank with Sam Yahel on organ. Also in 2003, Ben produced a trio under his name for Tzadik entitled Camp Songs. It was voted one of the top 50 CDs of 2003 in JazzTimes magazine. He appears on 7 other Tzadik releases to date.
The Ben Perowsky Quartet featuring Chris Speed, Ted Reichman and Drew Gress toured in Europe in 2005 and released Esopus Opus on Skirl records 2009. Red Cred, a new project featuring Speed, John Medeski have also been performing regularly in the catskills since 2007, with NYC debut at Winterjazz festival 2011. Starting in 2009, along with musician/producer Danny Blume, Ben prepares new music for his Moodswing Orchestra, playing disco inflected techno dance music, an improvised dance party with chance special guests including rapper extraordinaire TK Wonder.
In addition to his solo projects and collaborations, Ben has worked with numerous bands since the late Eighties. In 1988 he joined the rock/pop band Fertile Crescent with fellow High School of Music and Art alumni bassist/songwriter Erik Sanko, and Danny Blume. In 1995, Ben joined the song writing team of Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles in their band Elysian Fields. He recorded on five releases and played numerous tours with the band and its ever-changing cast over the next 8 years.
In the 1990s, The Knitting Factory became the stomping ground for new projects. Danny Blume began a series called Liminal Lounge with DJ Olive, spawning an electronica based band called Liminal, in which Ben played live and on record along with Christian Castagno. It was around this time that the phrase "Illbient" came into being. There Ben also played with Steven Bernstein, Dave Douglas, Don Byron, and the Ben Perowsky Trio.
In 2002, Ben began working with songwriter Joan Wasser. They played as a duo for a year before the band Joan as Police Woman was formed with the addition of Rainy Orteca. After three years of live performance and working on Joan's new material, an EP was recorded with producer Brice Goggin, another of Ben's High School of Music and Art schoolmates. The full-length release Real Life was met with much success in the US, UK and Europe. Ben appears in the video for the song "Eternal Flame" and on two songs from Joan's 2008 release "To Survive."
In 1995, Ben also began playing with 101 Crustaceans with bandleader Ed Pastorini. Salon.com wrote, "The stock listings phrase that when a particular band plays 'some of the best musicians in town take to the stage' is actually true in the case of Ed Pastorini's 101 Crustaceans, the 'town' in this instance being New York City. And here's a line . . . to follow it: The rest of them are in the audience." Other players include guitarist Indigo Street and bassist Oren Bloedow.
In 1999, Ben recorded on Mike Stern's "Play," with guests Bill Frisell and John Scofield. He then toured extensively in Scofield's band for most of 2000. In 2002, the Uri Caine trio began touring and recording. A live record was made at the famous basement jazz club The Village Vanguard. Ben still currently tours and records with Uri Caine in a number of his projects regularly. On a notable recording session in 2003, Ben was found in the company of jazz legends led by composer /arranger Tom McIntosh with Benny Golson, James Moody, Buster Williams, Kenny Barron and Richard Davis.
Ben continues to be active among improvisers and songwriters. From 2003 to present Ben has appeared on records and/or tours with Clem Snide, Kaki King, Dave Derby, Jamie Saft, Nels Andrews, Adam Levy, Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, Michael Blake, Trey Anastasio, Lizz Wright and The Wood Brothers. Recently, Ben recorded with Welsh singer Katell Keineg, Antony and the Johnsons, and appears on the disco hit single "Blind" by the band Hercules and Love Affair.
Discography as a leader
- Lost Tribe (Windham Hill, 1993)
- Lost Tribe Soulfish (Windham Hill/Highstreet, 1994)
- Lost Tribe Many Lifetimes (Arabesque Records, 1998)
- Ben Perowsky Trio (Jazz Key, 1999)
- Bop on Pop (Jazz Key, 2002)
- El Destructo Volume 1, (El Destructo Records, 2002)
- Camp Songs (Tzadik Records, 2003)
- Moodswing Orchestra (El Destructo Records/Royal Potato Family/Red, 2009)
- Esopus Opus (Skirt Records, 2009)
Recording Artist Short List
- Jarrod Gorbel "10 Years Older" 2010
- Siobhan Wilson "Songs" 2010
- John Zorn The Goddess - Music for the Ancient of Days (Tzadik, 2010)
- John Zorn In Search of the Miraculous (Tzadik, 2010)
- Katell Keinig "At The Mermaid Parade" 2010
- Loudon Wainwright III "High Wide & Handsome – The Charlie Poole Project" 2009
- Ben Perowsky's Moodswing Orchestra "Moodswing Orchestra" 2009
- Ben Perowsky Quartet "Esopus Opus" 2009
- John Zorn Alhambra Love Songs (Tzadik, 2009)
- Joan As Police Woman "Cover" 2009
- Jim Keller "Sunshine In My Pocket" 2009
- Kevin Mackenzie w/ Donny McCaslin "East of East 7th st." 2009
- Hercules and Love Affair "Hercules and Love Affair" 2008
- Joan As Police Woman "To Survive" 2008
- Lizz Wright "The Orchard" 2008
- Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, "We Are MTO" 2008
- Nels Andrews, "Off Track Betting", 2007
- Baby Loves Jazz, "Go Baby Go", 2006
- Joan As Police Woman, "Real Life ", 2006/07
- Bojan Zulfikarpašić, "Xenophonia", 2006
- Dave Derby, "And the Norfolk Downs", 2006
- Steven Bernstein, "Millennial Territory Orchestra Volume 1", 2006
- Adam Levy, "Loose Rhymes: Live on Ludlow street", 2006
- Jamie Saft Trio, Trouble: The Jamie Saft Trio Plays Bob Dylan (Tzadik, 2006)
- Trey Anastasio, "Bar 17", 2006
- The Backyardigans, "Groove To The Music", 2005
- The Backyardigans, "The Backyardigans", 2005
- John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Mike Patton, Rob Burger, Bill Laswell, The Stone: Issue One (Tzadik, 2005)
- Eyal Maoz, "Edom", 2005
- Misha Mengelberg Trio, "Senne Sing Sing", 2005
- Jamie Saft Trio plays Masada, Astaroth: Book of Angels Volume 1 (Tzadik, 2005)
- Clem Snide, "End of Love", 2005
- Kaki King, "Leg's to Make Us Longer", 2004
- Adam Niewood, "Introducing", 2004
- Tom McIntosh - (Benny Golson, James Moody, Kenny Barron, Richard Davis, Buster Williams), "With Malice Toward None", 2004
- Joan As Policewoman EP, self-titled, 2004
- Michael Polesney, "Stoneboat (season of St.Lucy)", 2004
- Uri Caine Trio, "Live at the Vanguard", 2004
- Elysian Fields, "Dreams That Breath Your Name", 2003
- Raz Mesinai's Badawi, "Clones and False Profets", 2003
- Ben Perowsky / Uri Caine / Drew Gress, "Voices in the Wilderness", 2003
- Ben Perowsky / Uri Caine / Drew Gress, "Great Jewish Music: Sasha Argov", 2003
- Chihiro Yamanaka, "Leaning Forward", 2003
- Joseph Arthur, "Redemption's Son", 2002
- Tonic, "Live at Tonic", 2002
- Oren Bloedow / Jennifer Charles, "La Mar Enfortuna", 2001
- Elysian Fields, "Queen of the Meadow", 2000
- Chris Speed Trio (w/ Jaime Saft), "Iffy", 2000
- Roy Nathanson (w/ Deborah Harry, Elvis Costello, Charles Earland and other legends), "Fire at Keaton's Bar & Grill", 2000
- Dave Douglas, Leap of Faith, 2000
- Liminal, self-titled, 1999
- Uri Caine, The Sidewalks of New York: Tin Pan Alley, 1999
- Dave Douglas, "Live at Birdland", 1999
- Mike Stern (w/ Bill Frisell and John Scofield), "Play", 1999
- Salif Keita (w/ Vernon Reid and John Medeski), "Papa", 1999
- Dave Douglas, Magic Triangle, 1998
- The Whistling Hangmen, "Barhopping", 1998
- The Lounge Lizards, "Queen of All Ears", 1998
- Pat Martino, All Sides Now (Blue Note, 1997)
- Evan Lurie, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation", 1998
- Elysian Fields, "Black Acres (unreleased)", 1997
- Liminal, "Preset", 1997
- Robert Dick / Soldier string quartet, "Jazz Standards on Mars", 1997
- Elysian Fields, "Bleed Your Ceder", 1996
- Elysian Fields, self-titled, 1996
- Spanish Fly, "Fly by Night", 1996
- David Tronzo Trio, "Yo! Hey!", 1996
- John Cale, "Walking on Locusts", 1996
- Charles & Eddie, "Chocolate Milk", 1995
- John Zorn's Cobra, "Live at the Knitting Factory", 1995
- John Cale / Bob Neuwirth, "Last Day on Earth", 1994
- Walter Becker, "11 Tracks of Whack", 1994
- Mike Stern, "Is What It Is", 1994
- Ralph Bowen (w/Jim Beard and Anthony Jackson), "Movin' On", 1992
- The Fertile Crescent, "The Fertile Crescent", 1992
- Spanish Fly, "Rags to Britches", 1992
- Ronnie Cuber (w/ Bobby Broom, Michael Formanek, Patato Valdez), "Cubism", 1992
- Ronnie Cuber, "Airplay", 1992
- Dave Kikoski, "Persistent Dreams", 1992
- Mike Stern, "Standards", 1992
- Mike Stern, "Odds or Evens", 1991
- Bob Berg, "Backroads", 1991
- Jim Beard (w/ Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Don Alias, Mino Cinelu), "Song of the Sun", 1991
- Chris Minh Doky (w/ Larry Schneider and Thomas Clausen), "Appreciation", 1989
- Roy Ayers, "Fast Money", 1988