Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Black, Ben (Wesley Benjamin Black)
Black, Ben (Wesley Benjamin Black), singer; b. Monterey, CA, 30 October1966. His father, (John Black 1940) was Slovenian and Scotch/Irish and was in the U.S. Army. While he was an infant his family moved to Indianapolis, Colorado, Washington, and Heidelberg Germany where they lived for 5 years. He has 3 sisters and 2 brothers, two of which he grew up with (Shane, b.1964; Heidi, b.1965) and two that were given up for adoption (Lauri, b. 1963; Unknown male b.1962). His younger sister (Maria, b. 1992) came from his father's second marriage. The family returned to America and settled in Puyallup WA, where he graduated from high school. His mother (born Paula Harootunian, 1939-1999) was Armenian and German. She had him in piano lessons from the age of 6-19.
His earliest musical influences were in listening to his parent's records. . He was influenced by his mother's love of Sergio Menendez and Brazil 66, The Singers Unlimited, Nina Simone, Neil Sedaka, and many of the great musicals of that era. At 15 he discovered his mothers old recording of "Sarah Vaughn at Kelly's" and Ella Fitzgerald's "A Tisket a Tasket." This was a real spiritual awakening. Upon graduation from high school in 1985 he attended Edmonds Comm. College in Washington where he performed and toured with the Vocal Jazz group Foundation. He attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle from 1986-1988, where he studied with Carolyn Gray and Jay Clayton in the Jazz Vocal Program. He studied with Jay Clayton on and off from 1987-1998. In 1988 he drummed and danced with the African group Village Masquerade under the leadership of Liberian born Won ldy Paye.
He has lived and performed extensively in the top venues in Seattle and the Northwest. Including Dimitrio's Jazz Alley, The Experience Music Project, Bud Shank Jazz Festival, Bumbershoot Arts Festival, and Tula's. He currently studies voice with Thomasa Eckert. His Recordings have brought him to the bigger stage reaching national and international audiences. He has attended Master Classes of Bobby Mcferrin, Barbara Cook, Flora Purim, Airto Moreiea, mark Murphy, Sheila Jordan, Kevin Eubanks, Nancy King, and The Mable Mercer Cabaret Conference in New York. Ben has taught Vocal Improv classes and accepts private students. He has also performs a New York Style Cabaret Act.
Recordings, Broadcasts, and Film:
In a Mellow Tone; Remembered Faces/Private Places; Northwest Folk life, with Village Drum and Masquerade (1988) Won ldy Paye. Has been aired on local television several times. Live Radio Interview and performance (Seattle; 1995) on KBCS-FM (Bellevue Comm. Coll)