Bending and Breaking

Drummer/composer Aaron Staebell has a blend of many influences that has trouble fitting into any category. His new album has elements of jazz, brought about by his conservatory training at the Eastman School of Music, but also has been influenced by growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. The compositions reference the music of Rufus Wainwright, Bjork and Stevie Wonder as much (if not more) as they reference any historical jazz. The music is inspired by today’s jazz greats like John Hollenbeck, Dave Douglas and Kneebody. It brings detailed composition and exploratory improvisation together to create a music that is surprising, intriguing and exciting.

Staebell’s drumming is the backbone to each tune. His undulating grooves, bombarding fills and free-flowing crashes lead the way as the band navigates through the multi-layered compositions. He is joined by four highly creative musicians, all of whom were classmates at Eastman. Chris Ziemba operates the piano and keyboard with keen precision, and acts as the band’s catalyst, prodding the soloist and painting the textural backdrop for each piece. He has been featured on Marion Mcpartland’s “Piano Jazz” as well as on stage at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. He will attend the Juilliard School in the fall as an Artist’s Diploma candidate. Dave Chisholm adds his rich trumpet sound to the mix, and improvises with a ferocious sense of rhythmic and harmonic understanding. Chisholm is an outstanding composer himself, and is working towards a Doctorate in Jazz from Eastman. Wills McKenna is the youngest member of the group, but at the age of 21 has already created a personal voice on the tenor saxophone. Wills is the circle to Chisholm’s square in the band–he plays with a sense of detachment that somehow connects with the band at all the right times. His ability to blend sensitivity and awareness with reckless abandon helps the compositions come to life. Bassist Ben Thomas is much more than the cliched anchor of the band. He can determine the mood or direction of each piece with one note. His strength and presence within the group is a huge contribution to the overall sound. He is deft as an improviser, and has proven this during study at the School for Improvised Music (with Drew Gress and Ralph Alessi) and the Banff Center for the Arts (with Dave Douglas).

The music is honest and hopeful. Staebell works to create an optimistic view of the world and writes compositions ABOUT things. Tunes can be about band members (Ben Dover–dedicated to Ben Thomas), ex-girlfriends (..I learn by going where I have to go..), inspirations (Thank You John–for John Hollenbeck) or memories (April 4: Boston). The music also has a pervasive sense of humor (Nobody Reads Your Blog) while maintaing a sensitive side (Promise) and is always meant to be fun and not too serious. An excited fan best summed it up when he referred to the music as “an orgasm of musical happiness”. You will definitely enjoy this fun and happy music.


2011: Bending and Breaking

(can be found on iTunes, CD Baby,, LastFM, eMusic and more)

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