Ben Winkelman is an award-winning jazz pianist and composer from Melbourne, Australia. He is currently living in New York City, where he is performing around the city and completing a master’s degree at SUNY Purchase College. He is the pianist/organist for Bethel A.M.E. Church, Westbury.
Since 2005 Ben has released three critically acclaimed albums of his compositions with his trio on the Jazzhead label. Between 2006 and 2010 his trio toured Australia extensively four times and appeared at many of the major national jazz and music festivals. In 2008 his trio toured to Japan and New Caledonia and appeared on Australian national television on ABC TV in 2006 and 2010.
Ben has received an award and a number of grants and award nominations. In 2007 his second trio album “The Spanish Tinge” won the AIR Award for Best Independent Jazz Release. In 2006 his first trio album “Stomps, Pieces & Variations” was nominated for the Australian Jazz Bell Award for Best Classic Jazz Album. In 2010 his third trio album “Odysseys” was nominated for the Jagermeister Independent Music Award for Best Independent Jazz Release. His work has been supported by grants from Arts Victoria, the Contemporary Music Touring Program and the PPCA. He was a semi-finalist in the 2006 Wangaratta National Jazz Awards and was shortlisted for an APRA Professional Development Award in 2006 and 2009.
Ben’s jazz compositions draw on a wide range of influences, including Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, stride piano and early jazz and 20th century classical music. Some make use of claves (Cuban rhythmic cells) in odd meters.
Besides leading and writing for his trio Ben has been very active as a collaborator and sideman, in jazz, and also in other styles such as salsa and Cuban music, Brazilian music, pop, funk, R&B, Argentinean tango and klezmer. He has played and recorded with Julie O’Hara and Ali McGregor and toured with the Black Arm Band, Eddie Perfect, and Spanish singer Diego Guerrero. He played in and arranged for Rumberos (Australia’s premier Latin band) for 17 years, and was a member of live electronica group Ping in the late 90s.
Ben studied at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne with Paul Grabowksy and Mickey Tucker, completing a B.Mus. in 1994, studied classical piano with Linda Kouvaras from 2003-2009 and took lessons in New York City in 2003 and 2010.
Ben has taught piano for 15 years, and has presented workshops at universities, TAFEs and high schools around Australia, including at Monash University, Griffith University, and University of Tasmania.
Ben Winkelman Trio Press Quotes 2011
“For seventy absorbing minutes, the trio captures the ear, providing thrilling evidence of a stellar contemporary trio to rank among the best... Odysseys succeeds on every level... and this fine trio statement whets the appetite for what lies ahead.” - allaboutjazz.com (USA)
“This music effortlessly accomplishes the difficult balance between the cerebral and the visceral. Odysseys is a gem.” - Music Forum (Australia)
“The album provides further proof, if any were necessary, that Winkelman occupies a truly unique and important space as a contemporary composer, improviser and bandleader.” - Extempore online (Australia)
**** “There is nothing predictable here. Most fascinating is the way Winkelman, with his fluid attack, can shift so seamlessly between moods.” - The Age Green Guide (Australia)
The Spanish Tinge (2007)
“These are not head-and-solos renditions but closely argued musical treatises. Winkelman is in the mode of younger pianists who are more and more insisting on reclaiming the full resources of the piano.” - David Dupont, Cadence (USA), April-June, 2008
**** “Pianist Ben Winkelman’s first album came like a bolt from the blue with virtuosity and inspiration across a wide historical span. It was no fluke: The Spanish Tinge is just as thrilling and mind expanding…” Derek Leather, M Magazine, The Age, 2007 (Australia)
**** “The presentation is tightly drilled but the music zings with an electricity of counterpoint and ideas popping up everywhere. The most stunning moment is saved for last in his jazzed-up rendition of the emotional Yiddish song, Vilna. More please.” - Leon Gettler, The Age Green Guide, 2007 (Australia)
**** “The new title is a quote from Jelly Roll Morton, who believed the Spanish Tinge was essential seasoning for jazz... Winkelman has achieved this by more than simply playing predictable Latin beats...” - John McBeath, The Australian, 2007 (Australia)
“Ben Winkelman won a lot of positive reviews last year for his debut album. The follow-up is an even more impressive collection of original compositions, superbly performed by the pianist with his new trio partners…” – Adrian Jackson, Rhythms, October 2007 (Australia)
Stomps, Pieces & Variations (2005)
**** “Just when we thought everything possible with jazz piano trios had been done, this Melbourne trio's debut album forces a rethink.” - John McBeath, The Australian, 2005 (Australia)
**** “Splendid. Winkelman's 14 joyous originals embody the exhilaration of music making and not a hint of fat... here we come a little closer to the divine.” - Ken Williams, The Age EG, 2005 (Australia)
“Ben Winkelman is the genuine article, a determined crossbreeder of styles whose music is inventive and often surprising. It’s hard not to enjoy the panache and sense of fun: Winkelman’s tunes keep you guessing. In the era of the postmodern piano trio, Winkelman’s already claimed his place at the table.” - Nate Doward, Cadence (USA), 2006
**** “Here's a party with conversations everywhere.” - Leon Gettler, The Age Green Guide, 2005 (Australia)
“A talented musician, with an approach that is refreshingly different.” - Adrian Jackson, Rhythms, 2006 (Australia)
“This is a terrifically enjoyable album, full of energy and spirit...” - Tim Stevens, Music Forum, 2006 (Australia)
General and gig reviews:
“Winkelman’s all-original music defies categorisation…” – John McBeath, The Australian, 2006 (Australia)
“More than 60 years after the death of Jelly Roll Morton the ‘Spanish tinge’ he described as essential to jazz is alive and well in the hands of Ben Winkelman. Winkelman and his colleagues sounded impressively tight as they negotiated Winkelman's musical brainteasers.” - Jessica Nicholas, The Age, 2007 (Australia)