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CD Reviews:

Portland Calling:

By Scott Yanow, April 2021
L.A. Jazz Scene

A fixture on the Portland, Oregon jazz scene since 1990, bassist Ed Bennett has an endless resume filled with associations including working with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, Frank Morgan, Richie Cole, Joe Albany, Dave Frishberg, Carmen McRae, Jimmy Witherspoon, the Mel Brown Quartet, and on and on. Suffice it to say that his bass playing is welcome on any bandstand. He founded the Saphu label in 1993, a company that now has over 20 albums in its catalog including at least five of his own. Portland Calling features Bennett as a bassist and a composer (he contributed all 11 songs) with a quintet also including trumpeter/flugelhornist Paul Mazzio, Tim Willcox on tenor and soprano, pianist Dan Gaynor, and drummer Tim Rap. The songs are sometimes reminiscent of West Coast jazz of the 1950s although they often utilize more modern harmonies. Bennett's soloists are quite skilled with Willcox's high-powered tenor playing sometimes recalling Johnny Griffin, Mazzio contributing many colorful statements, and pianist Gaynor occasionally stealing the show with his own inventive improvisations. Bennett takes short solos of his own that keep the momentum flowing while Rap makes the most of every drum break. Among the highlights are the boppish "Portland Calling," the pretty "Waltz For Jill," "Ecaz" which evolves from repetition to pure exhilaration, the happy  "Holliday In Portland," an atmospheric ballad "March Mist" and the uptempo romp "News Blues." Portland Calling, which is filled with exciting music, is easily recommended and is available from

En Route:

Jazzscene, Oregons Jazz Magazine

Ed Bennett has carved out quite a niche among bass players in his twenty or so years as a Portlander. I love catching him on the last Friday of each month at Wilf's in his longtime association with Tony Pacini, piano, and Tim Rap, drums. But for this recording, the versatile ex-Carmen McRae bassist chose a different path, enlisting the considerable skills of Paul Mazzio, trumpet and flugelhorn, Scott Hall, tenor and soprano sax, Dan Gaynor, piano, and Todd Strait, drums. All of the tunes, save one, are Bennett originals, and at least a few deserve special mention. "Solari" is a very uninhibited, spirited line with espeically invigorating solos from Mazzio and Gaynor. "Ask Me How" is Bennett's clever realignment of the melody line of the Monk classic, "Ask Me Now". And the title tune has that breezy, freeway feel to it. On the latter tune, Gaynor and Hall offer resilient solo work preceding Bennett's own solo statement. S & W is yet another straightahead swinger, and is followed by the disc's only standard. It's a chance for the leader to shine on "For Heaven's Sake". Mazzio's silvery flugelhorn touch is featured on the Brazil-flavored "Suavemente Ahora", and "When It Was" showcases Bennett's skill on a lilting waltz. These and others all add up to a melodic, swinging, in-the-pocket album of real deal jazz. Bennett is undoubtedly one of the few remaining totally acoustic bassists on planet Earth. And the music heard here defines him as a life long jazz musician. Saphu, 2010, 59:55.

Victory Review/Acoustic Music Magazine

Bassist Ed Bennett's "En Route" with Paul Mazzio on trumpet & flugelhorn, Scott Hall on tenor & soprano saxophones, Dan Gaynor on piano and drummer Todd Strait is straight ahead jazz, no frills, just well structured jazz from the beginning to end.  Bennett wrote all the pieces on the CD, the project was recorded at Saphu Studios with engineer Patrick Springer.

"Blues For KG", gets right to it, no buffer, just straight ahead in-your-face great playing with a hint of that LA thing that was happening in the late 50's and early 1960's vibe, very cool & hip bebop, crystallizing with Scott Hall and Paul Mazzio's solos. "Solari" opens with a very cool horn/reed section racing towards the trumpet solo while the rhythm section drives with a bit of a underlying Latin vibe allowing for the bounce of the piano solo, which is simply great work and chops. "Ask Me How" slowly glides out with a mellow feeling reminiscent of a big band feel with this quintet, but then settles into a very nice feel.  "En Route", the title track, drives with a drum solo intro then the horn section belts its way into the framework Bennett has written and again has a very cool LA thing going for it.  The piano solo by Dan Gaynor is Nat King Cole smooth, floating above the rhythm, then as Hall's sax solo enters the tune is lifted back to that bebop feel while it grooves. Mazzio's solo leads to Bennett and Strait's solo section highlighting this piece.  This is grown up stuff, not for the faint at heart.

"Spring Calm" opens quietly with Bennett's bass walking softly and illuminates maturity as a player and his thoughtfulness to his horn section that unfolds calmly.  This is a beautifully structured piece that was designed for a feeling and accomplishes just that. This is a wonderful tune allowing all in the ensemble to shine. In contrast, "S & W" swings right out and then settles down for another wonderful piano solo from Gaynor leading to Todd Strait's drum solo, punctuated with great horn & reed vibes from Mazzio and Hall.  "For Heaven's Sake", allows Ed Bennett's chops as a bassist to take the lead and alone he carries this tune and vibe.  Bennett's feel for his instrument is amazing and evident in this tune. Bennett's playing is wonderful, brave and more than just a bass here.

"Suavemente Ahora", has that Latin thing bouncing from the start and just unfolds melodically and gracefully with the horn and sax complementing the structure of this piece. "Spindido" mysteriously unfolds with bass and percussion into another straight ahead piece of work that Bennett writes with feeling and understanding in his arrangement, nice and smooth textures abound. "When It Was" feels like 3AM in some sleepy little joint, but the tune is anything but sleepy, it's sophisticated and unassumingly beautiful in its melodic and sparse approach, with a wonderful bass solo from Bennett, leading to amazing  solos by Bennett's soul mates on this project. "Peace Work", completes this collection of self- penned tunes and drives from the start with another well thought out arrangement and solos from all aboard.  If you love jazz and well thought out work, this is a project for you.  I listen to jazz and this is in step with anything I've ever heard.  These players feel the tunes and work toward Ed Bennett's vision of each piece. Paul Mazzio, Scott Hall, Dan Gaynor and Todd Strait not only add to Bennett?s work, but also allow their influences to show while complementing Ed Bennett?s "En Route".



Ed Bennett's quintet is a superior group from Portland, Oregon, which has become a hotbed of jazz activity. The bassist boasts an admirable resume including stints with Carmen McRae, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sonny Stitt, the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band, and a number of West Coast stalwarts. Tourology is his fourth album on his own label, Saphu. While the disc's back cover emulates the appearance of classic Blue Note LPs, the music within is skewed solidly toward West Coast coolness.

The unusual alto-trombone front line works very well in this style of music. Warren Rand's alto approach is reminiscent of Bud Shank and Phil Woods, edgy without being abrasive. Tom Hill is a fine trombonist with a fluid attack and bright tone, complementing the alto sound nicely. Pianist Steve Christofferson, a popular local figure, and drummer Tony Jefferson form a flexible rhythmic partnership with Bennett, who composed most of the selections here. The bassist's approach to the upright is limber and technically masterful.

There's an enjoyable array of tunes on this collection. The bossa rhythm of Melange and lightly swinging waltz of Waltz For Milo are especially comfortable, and the ensemble holds fast onto the uptempo Whee Up. Ray's Idea, a less familiar piece by Ray Brown and Gil Fuller, nostalgically recalls the fertile era between bebop's complexity and the openness of free jazz. Another little-known gem is the dark, mysterious White Flight, by bass icon Putter Smith. Bennett takes the initial melodic statements on Tiny Capers, a Clifford Brown composition, and the Billy Strayhorn classic Chelsea Bridge. All of the performers have a natural feel for the unfailing swing necessary to pull off this type of jazz. Tourology works beautifully on all levels, an immensely enjoyable jazz offering.

By LYNN DARROCH JUNE, 1997 Special writer, The Oregonian ****

Jazz bassist and composer Ed Bennett grew up in the mainstream, where he honed his craft with such greats as vocalist Carmen McRae, Grammy-winning saxophonist Joe Henderson and the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band. That journeyman's odyssey with the older generation prepared Bennett will for the future, because the most vital jazz being written today speaks through a form first developed more than 40 years ago.

Bennett's new CD, "Tourology" - the Portland resident's fourth as a leader- evokes the mainstream compositional style at its most melodic, lavishly voiced peak in the 1950s. And his all-star quintet makes this recording's 11 examples of the hard bop, West Coast jazz and classic bebop styles sing with contemporary freshness.

For most of its history, the highest value in jazz was innovation. Musicians relentessly pursued new sounds and techniques at the expense of fully investigating the possibilities of each successive form. But the latest generation of jazz players to reach maturity are the music's first real post-modernist. With the whole history of jazz at their fingertips, many used some of the hippest inventions of the past to express themselves in the present. Bennett's music never sounds like work of preservationists, though.

"Acoustic jazz breathes," says Steve Christofferson, pianist on this album and a leader and recording artist on his own. There's organic motion and elasticity here that makes each tune a new adventure, as if it were being performed live. Like Warren Rand's incisive alto saxophone, the sound is pretty but rough-hewn. Cut with bold strokes, it is emotional, dynamic and spontaneous.

It's also carefully arranged, showcasing Bennett's well-constructed melodies and lovely chord voicings on his seven originals. With trombonist Tom Hill harmonizing with Rand on the front line, while Christofferson and drummer Tony Jefferson join Bennett in the swinging rhythm section, they recall the soulful and complex music created at the legendary Prestige recording sessions outside New York city and the expansive optimism of jazz on Hollywood Boulevard in the 1950s.

By GEORGE FENDEL AUGUST, 1997 Jazzscene, Oregons Jazz Magazine *****

Ed Bennett is one of those powerhouse players whose virtuosity inspires the other participants on the bandstand to give it all they've got. Bennett remains one of the few bassist committed to a totally unamplified sound. But it's the hugely rhythmic sound of infinite ideas as demonstrated on this CD. Bennett's quintet includes Warren Rand, alto; Tom Hill, trombone; Steve Christofferson, piano, and Tony Jefferson, drums. Together they cruise through a selection of Bennett originals and a few standards mostly in medium to up tempos. I was tickled to see the inclusion of a Clifford Brown tune with a lilting, infectious melody. It's called Tiny Capers, and since I first encountered it through the selective ear of my son Marc, it has remained an all-timer. It's just one example of an album brimming with vitality and artistry.

By DICK BOGLE JUNE 25, 1997 The Portland Skanner *****

Bassist Ed Bennett is a California transplant who should be welcome in Oregon with open arms since he brings a boatload of talent with him. OK, so he?s been here for seven years. He brought with him years of experience working with Jimmy Witherspoon, Carmen McRae, Joe Henderson, Sonny Stitt, Frank Morgan, Anita O'Day and more.That kind of experience holds him in good stead working with such first-class Portland cats as alto saxophonist Warren Rand, trombonist Tom Hill, pianist Steve Christofferson and drummer Tony Jefferson, all of whom help make this a five-star release in anybody's city. Bennett also ably showcases his composing style with seven of the 11 charts penned by him. His arranging skills also deserve high marks, particularly with the way the horn parts are written.

Rand and Hill blend their sounds so well. Some tracks are reminiscent of Tadd Dameron?s sound. An example of the nice pairing of the two horns comes with the first track, "Tourology." It's a cute up tempo piece written by Bennett. Hill is impressive with his trombone solo on "Melange," a Latin-flavored nifty. Rand is mellow and warm on the thoughtful ballad "Passing," written by Bennett and dedicated to his father. One of the most beautiful ballads ever written is given its due by Bennett as he lays down a gorgeous unaccompanied solo on the Billy Strayhorn classic "Chelsea Bridge."

By FRANK RUBOLINO SEPTEMBER, 1997 Cadence Magazine

Bassist Bennett has assembled a well-deciplined band that showcases seven of his compositions, plus four others. The group consists of a strong trombone/alto front line that projects a sound larger than what you would expect from a quintet. The music is straight-ahead jazz done in a very tasteful way, but the 11 tunes are short (longest is 5:19) and don't offer much room to stretch out.

Bennett's composing style reminds me of Mancini's work with Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky television series. It consists of close harmonies in the theme statement, short improvisational periods, and a strong rhythm section. I know we no longer differentiate east and west coast sounds, but this album projects a definite Southern California flavor, even though it was recorded in Oregon. Only later did I read that Bennett is originally from and has played in Los Angeles. A good example is "Melange." It is a sound track in search of a sit-com that has a delightful Latin beat and a theme that is original and catchy. Hill and Rand skate through the piece with vigor and the whole thing gels.

On Clifford Brown's "Tiny Capers," Bennett takes the lead with a bass solo that touches on the melody and then prances through the changes accompanied by only piano and drums. He also pays homage to Ray Brown on "Ray's Idea" with a fast-paced bebop rendition of the tune. His other spotlight tune is a bass solo of Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge." When the quintet format is on stage, Bennett uses a propelling bass sound to boot his up tempo songs or to control the slower paced ones. Typically he allows Rand and Hill some short bursts, but no extended improvisation occurs. They do and excellent job with Bennett?s charts, though, and their harmonies mix very well with the theme statements. Bennett's band plays with gusto and spirit. This album is a fine example of his compositional skill and his leadership ability. Besides, after listening to the melodies a few times, they start to grow on you.

In Season:

By GEORGE FENDEL FEBRUARY, 1995 Jazzscene, Oregons Jazz Magazine ****

Since his move to Portland several years ago, Ed Bennett has established himself as one of the area's premier bass players. In Season is his second CD and it provides a wide ranging look at Bennett's music. The twelve selections are evenly divided between trio and quintet performances with Paul Mazzio,trumpet and flugelhorn and Lee Wuthenow, tenor added to the trio of Bennett, Steve Christofferson, piano and Ron Steen, drums. Seven of the tunes are originals and I liked the loose, loping, lyrical, West Coast feeling on The Path and Solution of Resolution. Bennett displays a leaning for the Latin rhythms on Samba de Ed and Bindu and solos with style on Noel Coward's Mad About The Boy. I was impressed with the inclusion of two infrequently heard tunes from jazzdom's hallowed history: Bennie Harris? Crazeology and the even more rare Dancing Sunbeam by Lucky Thompson. Mazzio, Wuthenow and Christofferson are pearls of musicianship and Steen lends his usual solid presence. Bennett's writing and playing are at the very heart of jazz: swinging lines with room to improvise and always, the joy of making good music. Even though it's only February, I can safely say that this will be one of my highly recommended local recordings of 1995.

By JACK ALDRICH JUNE, 1995 Victory Review

Big label A&R folks should have feeding frenzies for jazzlike rock so superb NW musicians like Portland bassist Bennett will not get lost. This fine collection features Ed's own compositions and standards presented in the best of the neo-classic style - a blend of West Coast jazz, and bop, but with modern modal lines and harmonic structure. Bennett has played for diverse artists from Witherspoon to McRae and the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabaken Big Band. He assembled competent NW musicians: Paul Mazzio-trumpet and flugelhorn, Lee Withenow-tenor, Steve Christofferson-piano, and Ron Steen-drums. I can't say enough about the arrangements and choice of music. I've known about but haven't heard Lucky Thompson's "Dancing Sunbeam" before. Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy" is given a droll reading featuring Bennett's bass. "Samba de Ed" and "Bindu" are nice Brazilian influences. "In Season" has a great set of changes as it moves through several keys. Other titles are indicative of what's going on in the head: "Blues Over" extends beyond the blues; "The Path" has a line that moves us along through the changes; and "Eyes of Ibad" goes beyond bop. This is so good I have asked for lead sheets! I hope this is circulated back East.


Bassist Ed Bennett caught my ears almost 20 years ago as a member of Carmen McRae's trio in a televised concert with Clark Terry's big band plus strings. Bennett's playing stood out in a gorgeous duo with McRae on an Ellington medley. He's been based in Portland for the past five years and just released his second CD on Saphu. In Season has him wearing several hats as producer, recording engineer and main composer. He features Rose City artists in trio and quintet settings covering a dozen compositions, seven of them Bennett's. It took me a while to warm up to the CD-- perhaps it was the order of the selections or the occasional monotony of Ron Steen?s drumming--but I was won over.

Quintet and trio divvy up the tunes. The horns of Paul Mazzio (trumpet,flugelhorn) and Lee Wuthenow (tenor sax) are well-matched, especially so when they open in the unison style of classic "50s" quintets. Mazzio plays with great warmth and an assurance that belies the difficulty of his solos. Wuthenow, too, is a melodic player whose ease lends an appropriately sultry touch to Bennett?s "Samba de Ed." The quintet dispatches Miles Davis' "Serpent's Tooth" with cool, sophisticated swing of the master himself.

Pianist Steve Christofferson's linear style and firm yet light touch provide the perfect counterpart for Bennett, whose fluid approach retains the individuality of his rapidly plucked notes. Bennett favors the bass' rich lower register which Steve echoes with his bass lines on Lucky Thompson's Dancing Sunbeam.

In a trio version of "Mad About the Boy" Bennett bows the melody and then an improvisation on it with smooth clarity, while Christofferson snakes around the bass lines. "Time," a composition by Richard Powell that is completely new to me and a highlight of the CD, is a haunting ballad dramatized by fascinating voicings from bass and piano and subtle shadings from Steen. You'll be rewarded by a careful listen to In Season.

Blues For Hamp

By PAUL B MATTHEWS DECEMBER, 1993 Cadence Magazine

Ed Bennett is active on the Portland and Pacific Northwest jazz scene. As The leader and producer of this album, his second, he's inspired some "active" playing from his trio to fortify their program of lively, straight ahead jazz. Bennett and Kent Glenn provide just over half the compositions. The pianist pays homage in his to some favorite colleagues and predecessors. The brisk title tune honors Hampton Hawes for example, and "Libation", Bud Powell. Hold that thought for a moment. Now think of those crispy played notes and that lightly knit playing style that was a hallmark of the first-generation beboppers and you?ll have a good sense of this trio's style. Bennett's playing and how he works his bass into the arrangements consistently evoked in my ears, thoughts of Pettiford and Potter. Dick Berk supplies some very tasty brush work and Glenn plays with the same relaxed confidence that Powell possessed. Having said this, I should hasten to add that this is not a bebop album. Bennett contributes a 10 bar ballad and a Brazilian tempoed original. One of his showcase numbers is "The Red Door" which may be more familiar to you under the name "Zoot Walked In" (in honor of the saxophonist's having adopted it as his signature tune). The operative word is "walked" and after listening to Bennett take the lead on it here, you may wonder why some enterprising bassist hasn't snatched it up for his theme. One of the pleasures of being a reviewer for Cadence is coming across a sleeper like this release. An independently produced album by a group you and I may not otherwise get to hear that's unpretentious but well thought out, beautifully played...and recommended.

EdBennett.Net - jazz bassist