Primary Instrument: Clarinet
Clarinetist / Composer Ben Goldberg grew up in Denver, Colorado. He received his undergraduate music degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master of Arts in Composition from Mills College. He was a pupil of the eminent clarinetist Rosario Mazzeo, and studied with Steve Lacy and Joe Lovano.
In addition to composing for and playing in the Ben Goldberg Quintet, he currently performs in the following groups: Tin Hat; plays monk, a trio with Scott Amendola and Devin Hoff; Myra Melford’s Be Bread; Nels Cline’s New Monastery; and Go Home, a new quartet with Charlie Hunter, Ron Miles, and Scott Amendola.
The 11- piece Ben Goldberg's Brainchild performs Ben's on-the-spot compositions. Ben’s group New Klezmer Trio kicked open the door for radical experiments with Ashkenazi roots music. (San Francisco Chronicle) Their CD Masks and Faces was listed as one of the ten best recordings of 1992 by Cadence magazine, which called it great free improvisation. The group made two more cds, Melt Zonk Rewire and Short for Something (all on Tzadik).
Ben's other recordings include the door, the hat, the chair, the fact (Cryptogramophone), a record of compositions dedicated to Steve Lacy; The Sad Machinery of Spring (Rykodisc) with Tin Hat; Plays Monk (Long Song) with Amendola and Hoff; Nels Cline’s New Monastery: a view into the music of Andrew Hill (Cryptogramophone); Light at the Crossroads (Songlines) with Marty Ehrlich; two records by Junk Genius (with John Schott, Trevor Dunn, and Wollesen): Junk Genius (Knitting Factory Works), an examination of bebop, and Ghost of Electricity (Songlines), dealing with American folk music; and What Comes Before (Tzadik), reflections on post-tonal harmonic structures with John Schott and Michael Sarin.
Ben’s upcoming releases include a quintet recording of recent compositions featuring Joshua Redman and Ron Miles, and the initial record by the group Go Home. In 2007 Ben was awarded a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music to produce the next recording by his quintet. Also in 2007 a commission from the de Young Museum of Art in San Francisco resulted in Line and Breath, a composition for quintet inspired by the work of Marsden Hartley.
In 1993 Ben received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to present a series featuring the work of important American composers, allowing him to work with Andrew Hill and Bobby Bradford in concerts of their compositions, as well as presenting the music of Steve Lacy, Herbie Nichols, and Thelonious Monk.
In 1996 the NEA funded a concert series of Ben's own music. Along with the musicians mentioned above, Ben has had the honor of working with John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Roswell Rudd, Wayne Horvitz, Don Byron, Mark Feldman, Ellery Eskelin, Zeena Parkins, Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer, Miya Masaoka, Jenny Scheinman, Steven Bernstein, Cuong Vu, Larry Ochs, and Adam Levy.