Jazz is one of the major forms of musical expression. In the 1970s, jazz was moving away from strict acoustic instruments and was adding electric instruments— turning its style toward rock music. Warren Benbow, who has been playing drums since he was young, details the changes jazz music underwent in his artistic memoir, “A Drummers Story”.
After attending the High School of Performing Arts in New York City, Warren Benbow started exploring the world of jazz. In his book, he looks back on the influences that emerged since the ’70s. He also recalls his performances and encounters with noteworthy musicians like Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, Betty Carter, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Ornette Coleman, and James “Blood” Ulmer. Aside from music, his memoir also mentions the shifts in racial integration and political dynamics in 1960s and 1970s America.
I’ve been fortunate to have performed or recorded with artists such as Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, LL Cool J, Betty Carter, Michael Urbaniak with Ursula Dudziak, Nancy Wilson, Mavis Staples, Teruo Nakamura and Super Friends, Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, James “Blood” Ulmer’s Odyssey Band and many others.
I went to the High School of Performing Arts (FAME) and the Mannes College of Music here in NYC. At the same time I also attended the Jazzmobile, here in NY as well, where many of the music instructors were members of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. Meeting these people is how I began to get jazz gigs and work in New York.
While in high school I had a band with my classmates and we were playing the music of the Rascals and Vanilla Fudge. We were loud. At the same time I was playing jazz with singer Betty Carter that was much softer music, with light sticks and brushes. At first it was not easy to make the transition between playing loud with my band or soft with the jazz vocalist, but eventually I found a way.
I started out as a kid drummer, and although I’m not that kid drummer anymore, every time I get behind the kit I still feel like I am. I enjoy performing and I plan to keep on performing. Once a drummer, always a drummer!
I work in recording studios here in town, but I enjoy performing live around the world even more, though at times it can be quite hectic. In fact, I just got back from doing a couple of club dates in Europe with James “Blood” Ulmer. One show was in Vienna, and one in Munich. I flew to Vienna, arrived at the hotel in the morning, had an evening sound check and performance, and then did the same deal the day after in Munich. Performances were great, but not much time to sleep. The life of a musician…Ha!
I recently wrote a book about my drumming life in the
changing music scene in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s called,”A Drummers Story”.
“A Drummer’s Story is a walk through Bed Stuy., and Brooklyn in the 60’s and 70’s, and on to the High School of Performing Arts in NYC. Through his gigs with Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, Betty Carter, James ‘Blood’ Ulmer and many more, Warren covers the NYC music scene from The Apollo, The Fillmore East and Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland Studios with Stevie Wonderand everything in between.
Warren has touched on a huge variety of the music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s – from the civil rights movement, the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King into John Lennon, the summer of love and Jimi Hendrixplaying the Star Spangled banner at Woodstock. A lover of music from James Brownand Aretha to Sly Stoneand Miles Davis, The Beatlesand Ringo to drummers Tony Williams and John Bonham. Warren covers his life thru the streets and thru the music….”
Lenny White – An American jazz fusion drummer icon, best known for being the drummer of Chick Corea and Return Forever. White has been described as “one of the founding fathers of jazz fusion”…
” Warren Benbow’s words give you a literary landscape of the most influential musical periods of the style of Jazz in the last century. He’s lived in it and continues to live an eventful life”.
Warren Smith – Jazz, and classical percussionist, and educator. “I was privileged to read Warren Benbow’s book. I have known Warren, it seems, for most of his professional career. His narrative is quite interesting, especially to another musician, as well as a fellow percussionist. Seeing similar or shared experiences thru the eyes of another musician is always an interesting adventure. Warren’s story is reminiscent of my own early years in New York City.
This book chronicles the constant evolution of the music world thru the last few decades. Warren tells of the influence of technology upon the music, as well as the ever-changing styles and developments of the innovators, musicians and composers who most influenced the direction of African-American Music during the 20th and early 21st centuries. His breadth of experiences, and the way he uses them to navigate a successful career, is a must read for young musicians.
I am sure that anyone who starts this book will find it hard to put down, from cover to cover. Great job Warren. We need more active musicians to tell this story from the inside…”