Courses, In The Jams, & Jam Packs
Ben-Hur's latest album is Our Thing (Motéma Music, 2012), a co-led trio project with Panamanian-born bassist Santi Debriano that also features Brazilian drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. Marked by soulful grooves, telepathic interplay and a rich, organic ensemble sound, Our Thing ranges from deeply swinging interpretations of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" and Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance" to a pair of poetic tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim and several beautiful originals that channel the players' Middle Eastern, Latin and Brazilian heritages through a post-bop prism. One of Ben-Hur's compositions is a fresh rendition of a longtime favorite in his songbook: "Anna's Dance," written for one of his two daughters.
Ben-Hur's family relocated from Tunisia to Dimona, Israel, where he was born into large family - teaching him good ensemble values early on. The guitarist began playing in wedding bands and in Tel Aviv clubs as a teenager enraptured by the recordings of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Jim Hall, and Kenny Burrell. The young musician also came to love the classical Spanish repertoire via Segovia, hearing a Moorish sound that resonated with his family's North African roots. Later, after moving to New York in 1985, he would fall for Brazilian music, particularly through the work of guitarist-composer Baden Powell. When Ben-Hur came onto the New York jazz scene, he was fortunate to be taken under the wing of veteran jazz pianist Barry Harris, a Monk disciple and Grammy Award-winner who led the influential Jazz Cultural Theater during the mid-'80s in Manhattan. The up-and-coming guitarist played in Harris's band, absorbing musical wisdom and life lessons.
Teaching has become increasingly important to Ben-Hur over the years, as he has developed an international reach as an educator. As founder and director of the jazz program at the Lucy Moses School at the Kaufman Center in Manhattan since 1994, Ben-Hur has educated a multitude of jazz enthusiasts in ensemble playing, improvisation and jazz guitar. More recently, through his company Adventures in Jazz Ben-Hur conducts jazz camps in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, in Istanbul, Turkey, and in Schroon Lake, N.Y., teaching workshops in straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz and Brazilian jazz with Debriano and other teachers. With Brazilian bassist Nilson Matta, Ben-Hur also co-leads Samba Meets Jazz camps in Paraty, Brazil, and in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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