Presently he’s one of the most sought after bassists in the world, which makes it interesting to know that initially he wanted to play the guitar. He was already playing the keyboard by ear and while he was in middle school he thought he would pursue the instrument of his dreams, only to find that when he got to the strings class, it was only violins and cellos; no guitars. In his mind, the coolest instrument he saw looked just right. It was the upright bass. Turns out he signed up for wrong class, or did he really?
“Its low frequency attracted me,” Williams recalls, “the way the instrument felt when I touched it. Then later, just the feeling of playing a groove. When you play a bass the whole instrument vibrates. It almost feels like the spirit of another human being. It’s like dancing with somebody and being in full contact with them. And the sound of the instrument appealed to me. It’s warm and deep and it resonated with me.” Ben Williams.
DC native Ben Williams grew up in an artistic family of musicians, visual artists and rappers. With his heroes being Prince and Michael Jackson it’s easy to understand why the guitar attracted him.
Williams was a natural. He excelled on both bass and piano, and once enrolled at the Duke Ellington High School of the Arts, he became a star student, performing in jazz band, gospel choir, and orchestra, as well as extracurricular gigs. Williams received his Bachelor’s in Music Education at Michigan State University in 2007, and his Master’s in Music from the Juilliard School in 2009.
“In high school I dedicated myself to the bass and to jazz,” Williams says. “I knew this could be a profession, and if I could do what I love for a living — man, what is better than that? You always feel like a student playing jazz, there is so much to learn. There’s never a point where you think you’ve arrived. I am trying to get better every day. Even Roy Haynes, when you see him play you get a sense that he is still trying to find new things.” Ben Williams
In 2009 he was the winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition.
To date he has worked with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Terence Blanchard to mention a few.
His debut album ‘State of Art,’ is scheduled for release June 28 2011 on the Concord Jazz label. Listen to samples here: Ben Williams Music Samples
Featured musicians in Ben’s band include Marcus Strickland (sax), Matthew Stevens (guitar), Gerald Clayton (Keyboards), and Jamire Williams (drums).
For all the assembled talent and wealth of influences, Williams has clearly discovered his own identity as bassist, composer and bandleader. The album is at its heart a statement, one that announces the arrival of an important, timely new voice – in essence, the state of the art.