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, saxophonists Seth Paynter and Terrance Tony, guitarists Susan Alcorn and Clayton Diaz, trumpeter Ralph Gill, flutist Bob Chadwick, bassists David Craig and Derrick Lewis, and renowned vocalist Horace Grigsby. In addition to drummer G.T. Hogan and bassist Lawrence Evans, it was also during this period that longtime Billy Harper drummer Malcolm Pinson became a friend and mentor.
The other artists Bennington has been privileged to learn from include multi-reedist Chuck Carter, saxophonists Antoine Roney and Bert Wilson, pianist Eric Lewis, drummers Roy Haynes, Ron Enyard, James Zitro, Billy Mintz, 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 legendary clarinetist Perry Robinson, trombonists Julian Priester, Andre Hayward, and Michael Vlatkovich, saxophonists Bert Wilson, Michael T. York, Wally Shoup, John Gross, Phillip Greenlief, and Seth Paynter, trumpeters Ralph Gill, Jim Knodle, and Farnell Newton, pianists Gordon Lee, Art Resnik, and David Haney, guitarists John Stowell, Tom McNalley, and Bill Horist, violinist Tom Swafford, and bassists Ed Schuller, David Klingensmith, Danny Zanker, Michael Bisio, and Jeff Johnson.
Based in Chicago, after long residences 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 music 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, and WNUR.
Bennington has performed in Canada as guest artist with the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto playing with pianist Ali Berkok, guitarist Ken Aldcroft, flutist Rob Piilonen, and clarinetist Mitch Yolevsky as well as with saxophonists Bruce Freedman, Graham Ord, and bassist Paul Blaney of the NOW Orchestra in Vancouver.
Chicago artists Jimmy has worked with include veteran multi-reedist Rich Corpolongo, saxophonists Fred Jackson 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, and Jason Steele, bassists Brian Sandstrom and Rollo Radford of Sun Ra Arkestra fame.
He has also 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 a wide range of vocalists that include Stephanie Porter, Joanne Klein, and Karen Shivers.
A visit to Paris in September of 2007 provided a career highlight and the opportunity for Bennington to sit in with trumpet legend Ted Curson and renowned pianist Alain Jean Marie at the Sunset Jazz Club.
Embracing a broad spectrum of the Jazz art form that ranges from the Great American Songbook to New Music, Bennington has developed an inimitable musical atmosphere that showcases his collaborators creative talents and places the drum in the role of timekeeper, colorist, and conductor. Always in keeping with the traditions of Jazz and Improvised Music, he employs strong elements of the Blues and Folk music to explore, propel, cajole, and inspire both musicians and audiences alike. Whatever the context, Bennington's intent remains one of integrity and honesty of expression.
Mr. Bennington is an experienced instructor teaching privately and in conjunction with Flatts and Sharpe Music Co. in Roger's Park, as well as a freelance writer who has been published in Modern Drummer Magazine, Jazz Profile, and Cadence Jazz and Blues Review.
One Final Note review by David Dupont, July 2005
James Bennington by Chris DeLaurenti, The Stranger,
Seattle, WA, Feb 9, 2006
'Meet Drummer Jimmy Bennington' by Jack Gold,
All About Jazz, April, 2005
'Take Five with Jimmy Bennington'
All About Jazz, October 2007
Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians compiled by Lewis
Porter/ Rutgers University (2007- )
That Swan Records