Jazz pianist and composer Ben Dowling takes the long view when it comes to music and his artistic-life journey. Born in Arkansas, raised in New York, Vermont and Boston but settled in Los Angeles, Dowling smiles at his conflicting geographical history, "so Im this Southern white boy who knows how to shovel snow design synthesizers and play jazz. Go figure..."
The one thing this player does figure is how to push music to the next level. Whether from the synthesizers he's designed (Korg M1 Wavestation Oasys etc.) the multimedia and film projects he's scored (United Nations documentaries and interactive games) or in his producing and keyboard playing Ben knows how to push the envelope forward while being true to the musical essentials.
"It truly is not about me. It's about the music and where it needs to go" he says.
With "World Rising" his new CD to be released on August 11 Ben takes his music exactly where it needs to go - creating a refreshing Weather Report and Herbie Hancock-inspired fusion of jazz world and funk with top jazz talents including Mindi Abair the late Carl Anderson Niki Haris Will Kennedy Satnam Ramgotra Bob Sheppard and a host of other friends from the World Music and Funk universes. World Rising is getting a substantial lift this summer with radio play and targeted performances in the US in addition to Ben's appearances at the Montreax Jazz Festival and at concert venues across Europe and Asia.
Trained in classical piano and organ at an early age Ben discovered the music of Miles Davis Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett at 14 later studying improvisation from Ran Blake at New England Conservatory piano performance at Boston University and composition from pianist composer and jazz educator Calvin Jackson.
As a jazz pianist a synthesizer programmer and in all his musical endeavors - Ben has had quite a ride from playing funk with Earth Wind & Fire's Al McKay to programming sounds for Madonna and Weather Report's Joe Zawinul to his wide-ranging discography including recordings from Tom Coster Freddy Hubbard Yellowjackets Jon Anderson (Yes) and the late Michael Jackson - while performing worldwide at top venues including: Lincoln Center The Greek Theater Hollywood Bowl the Montreax Umbria Jakarta and Mt. Fuji Jazz Festivals.
World Rising is thematic of a lifelong mission of bringing different creative elements together in new and innovative ways. "Real innovation comes from bringing things together that don't usually keep company and taking the time for inspiration to reveal itself" Ben says. "That is how new synthesizers are designed and that is how new ideas grow. Entirely new forms spring forth." Another example might be Ben's 2007 multimedia project "The Path of Peace" with painter Mark Wagner. An ambient art collaboration it casts Ben's solo piano improvisations with visual artist Mark Wagner's video scoring of his original paintings drawings sketches - garnering rave reviews from around the world.
"With World Rising I wanted to design a new kind of World-Soul music that is really great to move to that breaks new ground creatively and that really lends itself to live performance. I'm so tired of music being over-planned over-produced and over structured. Lip-syncing and air guitar are fine for video games but I want to see players take some risks. World Rising is my way of returning the ensemble form to its tradition of "open arrangement" so we can perform at a higher level more available to the magic that makes live performance such a life-changing event."