Ben Winkelman is a jazz pianist and composer living in New York City, whose music has been described by Downbeat as “one big, interconnected thing of beauty”. His writing explores diverse musical interests filtered through a jazz perspective: Afro-Cuban, gospel and classical music, with a focus on Latin rhythms in odd meters.
Ben has released five trio albums to wide acclaim: his second, The Spanish Tinge, won the AIR Award for Best Independent Jazz Release; his first was nominated for an Australian Jazz Bell Award; and his third and fourth albums were nominated for AIR Awards. His work has been supported by grants from the Australia Council and other arts organizations, and he was a finalist in the Australian National Jazz Awards. He has toured in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Ben holds a Master of Music degree from SUNY Purchase College and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Victorian College of the Arts. He studied jazz piano with Kevin Hays, Mickey Tucker and Paul Grabowsky and classical piano with Linda Kouvaras and John Bloomfield.
Ben was born in Eugene, Oregon, USA, and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. His love of music began as a toddler when he listened obsessively to the Fiddler On The Roof and Magical Mystery Tour albums. His interest in jazz began in his early teens when he discovered John Coltrane and Oscar Peterson records in his father’s collection. His first gigs were on drums at age 14 in an anarchist/animal rights punk band, but around the same time the jazz bug was starting to bite. While at music school he was asked to join a salsa band, a chance encounter that sparked an enduring interest in Latin music. His first jazz releases feature some of his compositions influenced by stride piano and early jazz, perhaps the effect of genetic memory: his grandmother, the daughter of Jewish Romanian immigrants, played in an all-girl dance band in 1930s Newark. In 2010 he moved to New York, hoping to be challenged by a larger music scene and not starve in the process. He found his feet playing for an African-American church and in spite of the brutal winters and failing subway system he is enjoying the stimulating musical environment in his new home.