What they're saying about us...
Reviews, Articles and Announcements
WESTWORD, Denver November 2004
The Bonner Party
Pianist Joe Bonner has been amongst the most enigmatic personages on the Denver jazz scene for decades, yet his talent is hardly a mystery, Lights Out, which receives its introduction to the public during a Saturday, November 27, CD-relese bash at Dazzle, is another in the long line of consistently impressive recordings stretching back to the early '70s.
Joining Bonner in this particular Party are saxophonist Prasanna Bishop, bassist supreme Artie Moore and drummer Charles Ayash. Together the instrumentally accomplished quartet tackles a slew of of original compositions from the pens of Bonner and Bishop, as well as Kenny Barron's "The Black Angel" and Thad Jones's lovely "Quietude." The playing throughout is lush, rich and intuitive, with the roiling "Essence" and the old-school bop of "Activa" offering ample evidence of the combo's range and skill. The performer's classicism means that traditions are saluted, not transformed, but the disc is no less engaging for their fealty to jazz verities. Title notwithstanding. Lights Out shines. - Roberts
Denver Post / Rocky Mountain News November 26, 2004
"Eats & Beats" by Sam Deleo
If your life endeavor is to create beautiful music, but, like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, no one hears it, then what sound does it make?
Fortunately for jazz pianist Joe Bonner, enough people have heard. People like legendary drummer Roy Haynes, who hired Bonner to replace Chick Corea in his band at Count Basie's Club in Harlem. Or trumpet great Freddie Hubbard, who Bonner performed with in the early 1970s. Or saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, another jazz giant who recognized Bonner's talent and hired him. The challenge has always been getting others to hear.
"I'm in my fifties now, and people are starting to find out about me." Bonner observed recently. "Lights Out" the brand new CD by The Bonner Party, a band formed by Bonner and saxophonist/producer Prasanna Bishop, is a big reason for their new listenership. Jazz stations across the country have already either included it in their playlists or are requesting copies of the CD, which manages to be both accessible and challenging at the same time, no small feat in the world of jazz music. "We try to lead people along a journey gradually with the music and then bring them back," said Bishop, "You can still play "out there as long as we're all together and people don't feel left behind."
Exemplifying this inclusive spirit, the band's CD release party will be an all ages event starting at 7 p.m. tomorrow night at Dazzle Restaurant (303-839-5100) on 9th and Lincoln, a location not without memories for Bonner: "I used to play at Booze &Beans on 9th and Lincoln. It was a dive bar, but they had booze and they had beans." Dazzle not only represents Denver's progress as a home for musicians like Bonner and Bishop - it was recently named "One of the 100 Great Jazz Clubs in the World" by Downbeat Magazine - but it offers a restaurant that would make even the biggest lover of legumes forget how to spell "beans". "We serve comfort cuisine," said executive chef Jeremy Wilson, "and we constantly elevate the quality of the food." Dazzle's fine culinary creations are now available at extensive jazz brunches on the weekends.
Bishop and Bonner will be joined tomorrow night by Mark Diamond on bass and Bonner Party drummer, Charles Ayash.
Born in the same town as Thelonius Monk - Rocky Mountain, North Carolina - and raised in Harlem, Bonner draws from a personal history in jazz that includes appearances on 40 albums and the release of over dozen album as a leader. When they
were neighbors, Bonner hang out and learned from Miles Davis. He played basketball with one of his major influences, Herbie Hancock, and sharpened his chops with Woody Shaw and Max Roach, among others. But it seems only now that others are finally listening, that the wilder, woolier days of scrounging for gigs are finally receeding in the past. "I've calm down a lot. I listen to Shirley Horn. She's real cool and slow," said Bonner. "But I'm still out there! I just want ti make people think I'm in."
Cadence Magazine Redwood, New York September 2005
2) Joseph Bonner
Lights Out / Fat Man in Harlem / Dark Night / Joining / Essence / Activa / A Bird in a World of People-Koko / Step into the Night / Oh Me Oh My Blues / Lights In / The Black Angel / Quietude
Bonner, p; Prasanna Bishop, as, ts, bari s; Artie Moore,b; Charles Ayash, d; Denver Co
...Of course there is nothing wrong in using 'Trane to take flight, but his is such a monumental achievement , it is so easy for the followers to be overshadowed. That is indeed the danger for Joe Bonner and Prasanna Bishop on (2), and I don't know if they always escape it.This is another 4tet loaded up with great talent, playing, for the most part, originals (they toss in a Kenny Barron and a Thad Jones tune, along with a quick nod to Parker's "Koko"). Bonner has a lot of Tyner in his playing, with modal solos over Coltrainesque vamps, though he lacks the great expansive flights Tyner takes. Prasanna Bishop plays a tenor that reminds me of Charles Lloyd, which of course means there is a good dose of 'Trane back there. For this reason, I prefer his work on baritone, which he picks up for "Fat Man in Harlem," Step into the Night" and "The Black Angel". He has the same fleet skills and brisk attack, but the roughness of his bari seems to free him from the most obvious influences. Jones's "Quietude" ends the record with a long opening Bonner solo on a tune that takes him out of the modes and lets him show his stuff with the changes. When the rest of the band enters in, so do the echoes of Coltraine, but the tune is so fine, it doesn't seem to matter. If you are in the mood for some solid mainstream Jazz that remembers the classic Coltraine 4tet (2) will please you a lot. - Phillip McNally
Rocky Mountain News November 26, 2004
Jazz Notes by Norman Provizer
On Saturday, pianist Joe Bonner brings his Bonner Party quartet to Dazzle to mark the release of the new CD Lights Out. A native of the Rocky Mount, N.C. (also the birthplace of Thelonious Monk), Bonner has had a long connection to his adopted base in Denver. Bonner is a world-class pianist with a list of credentials as substantial as his talents. On the disc, the other Party members are saxophonist Prasanna Bishop, bassist Artie Moore and drummer Charles Ayash. At Dazzle Mark Diamond stands in for Moore on bass. Shows at 7 and 9 p.m., Tickets: $10. Information: 303-839-5100.
Rocky Mountain News December 17, 2004
Jazz Notes by Norman Provizer
On Saturday, the sounds swing back to a more post-bop vein when pianist Joe Bonner brings his Bonner Party quartet to the Republic of Boulder, 1095 Canyon Blvd.
A few weeks ago, Bonner unveiled his new CD, Lights Out, to a packed house at Dazzle. Now he brings the action to Boulder. Along with the pianist, the Bonner Party consists of saxophonist Prasanna Bishop, bassist Artie Moore and drummer Charles Ayash.
The Denver Post November 26, 2004
The Local Scene
The Bonner Party
This jazz quartet includes four improvisation aficionados. Their modern jazz sound is characterized by passionate solos, grooving bass lines, soulful harmonies and driving rhythms. Check them out Saturday during a CD-release party at Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, 930 Lincoln Ave. Shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. $10.
BOULDER WEEKLY December 16th, 2004
Don't be alarmed if somebody invites you to the Bonner Party this weekend - it's Bonner with a "B", not a "D". And this party doesn't involve curious finger foods. The only platter offered here is the Bonner Party's new CD, Lights Out.
The jazz quartet debuted its new disc in Denver during two recent sold-out performances. However, due to a snowstorm. the band's Boulder contingency couldn't make it out - so the Bonner Party is bringing their hot jazz to them, The CD Release Party throws down at, where else, the Republic of Boulder - a legendary brewpub location and now a hot new local music venue.
The Bonner Party starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec.18, at the republic of Boulder, 1095 Canyon St., Boulder 303-443-1460. - Vince Darcangelo
DAILY CAMERA Friday, December 17, 2004
On Saturday night catch four jazzers doing their thing over at the Republic of Boulder, 1095 Canyon Blvd. The Bonner Party, a jazz uartet, will take the stage at 7 p.m. to celebrate the release of its new CD, Lights Out. The group's Denver CD release show sold out, and I've heard my jazz friends raving about the quartet's improv skills. Call (303) 443-1460. - Jennie Dorris
COLORADO DAILY Friday, December 17, 2004
Club Notes by Wendy Kale
It's cold outside, so some hot jazz should warm things up. Saturday The Bonner Party hosts a free CD release party at The Republic of Boulder. The group features the piano talents of Joseph Bonner, who has performed with likes of Freddie Hubbard and Pharoah Sanders.
Swing Vote E-Magazine November 23, 2004
The Joe Bonner Interview by Gloria Johnston
One of the celebrated sons of the worldwide jazz community, Joe Bonner has enjoyed musical tenures with several of the greatest jazz artists of all time. His playing poises him at the peak of a brilliant career. Joe plays at the Warwick Hotel in Denver, Colorado on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights.
*** Joe's new CD "Lights Out" will be coming soon. Swing Vote subscribers are invited to attend his CD Release Party on Saturday, November 27th at Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, 930 Lincoln Street, Denver; with two shows, at 7:00 and 9:00 pm. The $10 cover charge can be paid at the door.***
Swing Vote: Where were you born and raised? And, do you mind telling us your age?
Joe: I was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. My birthday is April 20th.
Swing Vote: At what age did you start learning to play the piano?
Joe: I started to play at age four. Everybody in my family played, not professionally, just at home. My father was Black. My grandfather and my mother were Cherokee. My grandfather put me on his knee and made me play piano.
Swing Vote: When and how did it become your passion, and career?
Joe: I started playing in the church. My grandfather was in the church. I think that had some influence on my music. In North Carolina there were ordinary people in the church. It was always part of the family. Actually, my grandfather was a janitor at the church, and they had this huge manual pipe organ. I was just four years old. My grandfather would take me with him when he was cleaning the church and doing his janitoring, and he would put me at this pipe organ. I couldn't even reach the pedals! And when he was reading the newspaper and cleaning the church, I was playing the organ. My grandfather's name was Richard Gay -- Richard Claudius Gay. He was such a great person.
Swing Vote: What do you think of today's rap and hip-hop music?
Joe: I think rap is a worthless excursion of free life. It's a misconstrued excursion that goes nowhere. It doesn't have much of a message. I don't listen to rap or hip-hop. Children buying up guns and shooting up Columbine -- it's worthless.
Swing Vote: Bill Cosby said that he thinks that Black rappers glorify the role of the "Black pimp" in society. What do you think about that?
Joe: Yes, I agree, I think it is accurate on the rappers.
Swing Vote: When these rappers encourage young people to vote, how do we separate the message from the messenger?
Joe: It's different -- there are no bad messages from jazz. But, when there are bad messages in rap, you can't separate the artist from the message.
Swing Vote: Do you remember if your parents or grandparents ever had any problems in voting or were prevented from voting?
Joe: No, North Carolina was a pretty progressive place. There was no Jim Crow in North Carolina. It wasn't that bad.
Swing Vote: Do you think that racial integration has been more accepted in the entertainment industry than in society as a whole?
Joe: I think it has. Music has nothing to do with racism. The quality of music goes beyond black and white. People want to put things in black and white. I don't have any energy to think about that. To hell with black and white!
Swing Vote: Who else have you performed with over the years, and where?
Joe: I grew up and went to school in Harlem, on 135th Street. We moved to Harlem when I was eleven. When I was twenty-two, I played at Count Basie's club - I got the gig for $80 a night - that was a lot of money then. I played with drummer Roy Haynes in New York City, I played for Aretha Franklin for two years, and I've played with James Brown and Otis Redding.
Swing Vote: What do you think the greatest improvement in race relation will be in your lifetime?
Joe: Jazz will settle everything -- jazz music is for everybody. There are no racial attitudes in jazz. There are some great jazz musicians that are white - Bill Evans, Stan Getz - good jazz musicians, I love them. You see life in a different way as an artist.
Swing Vote: Is there a brief story you wouldn't mind sharing with our readers.
Joe: I have a Bachelor's Degree in Classical Music. I've played Bach, and Beethoven and Brahms. I listen to classical music all day long. I think jazz relates to classical. I spent eight years in Europe -- in Copenhagen, Denmark. I had a recording contract there with SteepleChase Records. I did twelve CDs there. I think those were my best recordings. They love jazz there. It's the greatest jazz town in the world. I met Dexter Gordon in 1974. He was the greatest sax player I ever met. He was about six feet seven, and always had two Danish women, one on each arm, and a fifth of Gordon's gin in his pocket. We shook hands and made friends. I played with my quartet at a club called Sophia's Keller - keller means basement. The piano I played there belonged to Dexter. One night when I was playing there, a friend came up and told me Dexter had died in Philadelphia. I asked what time in America he had died, because there is about eight hours difference in the time, and I wanted to play something as a memorial to Dexter at the same time as when he died. He said he died "around about midnight!" Dexter's wife still has the piano. I liked him so much -- he was fun.
Denver Post July 31, 1005
Bonner benefit gives us all reason to smile
by Bret Saunders
Joe Bonner is one of many stellar jazz musicians who are known around the globe but call Colorado their home.
The luminous pianist chooses to play his trade in the shadow of the Rockies, and the Denver-Boulder scene has been the better for it for many years. Born in Rocky Mount, N.C., (also the hometown of the immortal keyboard wizard Thelonious Monk), Bonner settled in the area following a long stint with saxophone titan Pharoah Sanders and a string of critically admired albums released under his own leadership. The experience of Bonner on a good night in a local venue can practically transport you to a New York club.
But jazz-lovers know that a life in the music business comes with few benefits, including a sound health plan. So it was heartening to learn earlier this year that Bonner was to be the recipient of a much-needed "extreme dental makeover," with the assistance of the Delta Dental organization and the unceasingly benevolent Denver chapter of Volunteers of America. To help pay off the balance of Bonner's new smile, a benefit will be held at Dazzle beginning at 5 p.m. today.
"I've just been through eight weeks of surgery," Bonner, 57, says of his dental reconstruction. "But it's great. I've never received proper dental care until now."
Finally, Bonner can smile with confidence when he regales his acquaintances with stories of his jazz career. And he enjoys telling tales of his brushes with some of the greats in the music's history.
He claims that he dated Monk's daughter when living in New York, and that he lived next door to trumpeter Miles Davis in the '70s.
So, what was Miles really like? "He was a complete (expletive)," Bonner says with a laugh. "Actually, he ptotected himself from the outside world. But once you got to know him, he really was beautiful."
With a promising career as one of New York's top pianist, what brought him to Colorado?
"It just happened out of the clear blue sky," he says. "I drove a car out to Las Vegas and delivered it to its owner in 1978. From there I just got on the bus and found myself here.
"I like the weather. And places like Boulder and Evergreen remind me of Europe."
"In this day and age, when health care isn't easily available, it's nice to see that people can come together and change somebody's life like this," said Denver bassist Andrew Hudson, who will perform with the pianist as a part of his tasty monikered quartet The Bonner Party.
In addition to Bonner and his group, Denverites will have the opportunity to become acquainted with vocalist Rene Marie, a masterful performer capable of conjuring the spirits of Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan. Marie has enjoyed a string of successful releases on the Maxjazz label.
Joe Bonner and the Bonner Party and Rene Marie with various Denver musicians perform a benefit for Bonner, 5-9 p.m. today at Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, 930 Lincoln St. Tickets are $15. A brief auction will include Frontier Airline tickets and dinner certificates. Call 303-839-5100 for details.
Messeges from our friends...
"Joe is the most musical generous person I have ever met". John Bolivar, Jazz Saxophone Master, California.
"Your band is outstanding and the timing for this music is perfect because we are losing a lot of our brothers and there are a lot of people who want to hear real jazz again. Believe it or not you are John Coltrane, Miles, Pharaoh, Bird. They passed the torch on to brothers like you who can hear and play the music.
His friends in the Southeast are very pleased to hear that all is well and we are some big supporters of his new CD.
WOW! I'm a percussionist and love the rhythms you guys are pumping out.
Just the kind of Jazz I look for, but usually end up giving up.
July 15, 2004
Good afternoon Mr.Bonner, this email is from Michael J. whom used to live at Williams Hall .Do you recall? Well Walter P. has been in communication with me about you and its a pleasure to know that you are alive and doing well. We would love to see you in Va. for Homecoming....................so ,what you think?
October 11, 2004
Hellloo Joe Bonner,
Thought I would drop you a line and let you know that everyone here at Desperados is letting you know that we think of you often and we are still playing your music on the juke box. Come see us when you get a chance. We love some Joe Bonner in Prescott AZ. Love ya Ciao J.
November 16, 2004
Rocky Mount, NC
As I mentioned to you before, I live in Rocky Mount, NC - Joe's hometown, where I constantly remind people of his success as a Jazz Musician. Even though Monk was born here, Joe and Harold Vick are the only Rocky Mount born and raised natives who really made a name for themselves. If you will, please tell Joe that we would love to have him return and perform in Rocky Mount. Though the city has changed, the spirit of BTW, Chuck Woods, Tom Cofield and Harold Vick still lives. Ben B.
"One of the most magical music evenings I have seen in my 1 1/2 years on the Front Range" "A tremendous turnout despite the bad weather, an over the top success"
Joseph is a gifted genius at the piano, his improvisations were extremly imaginative, he was on fire and the band followed suite. He needs to be taken nationaly and internationaly, he deserves it.
December 2, 2004
Thanks for sending the Bonner Party CDs. I liked the recording very much, and debuted it last Saturday here in southern Colorado. I'll do some on-air giveaways with the extra copies.
Jazz Director, KCME-FM
Colorado Springs, CO
December 6, 2004
... "The Black Angel" sounded terrific over KRFC's airways tonight. Congrats on The Bonner Party's success. UTNG, dig, Peter
January 7, 2005
Just a note to confirm that we received the new release from
The Bonner Party here at 100,000 watt KUMD in Duluth, MN. Sounds
good, the cats can swing. Will get spins (2-3 a week) here on KUMD.
If your supplies allow, please send a few (5) extra copies for us
to include as on-air give-aways. This spreads the word about the group
and the new disc, and listeners love it.
KUMD is at 130 Humanities Bldg Univ of MN, Duluth
Duluth, MN 55812 Attn: John Z.
John Ziegler (KUMD Prog. Dir.)
January 18, 2005
Good Morning Joe and Happy New Year!
I heard your new CD this morning on my way to work. They played Quietude.
You are getting air play on WDNA FM, Miami. You may check them out online as they give their playlists ,etc. The DJ was Frank C. who heard you play with Pharoah.
Great to hear you again on the airways! Walt P. sent us your new release and website information.
February 3, 2005
I like "Lights Out" and will give Joe and the Bonner Party some points in the upcoming 2005 DownBeat Critics Poll.
Thanks for the music, all best,
Frank John Hadley
Febryary 17, 2005
Great CD and it is invigorating to hear you play again! You have
motivated me to listen again. The Bonner party brings back a lot of
memories form your friends here in the east. ..
...Your band is outstanding and the timing for this music is perfect
because we are losing a lot of our brothers and there are a lot of
people want to hear real jazz again. Believe it or not you are John
Coletrane, Miles, Pharoah, Bird. They passed the torch on to brothers
like you who can hear and play the music. Hope you get this message
nevertheless.... I wish your spirit
February 17, 2005
Thanks "Nick". You never really loose the love and passion for this
music. You are still the man. I do not run into the jazz heavy brothers
any more. Man as you were talking, I could see Joe walking across campus
from the music department with that "Blue Trane" album under his arms. I
figured he had absorbed what he could and headed on back to the dorm.
AMAZING stuff Bro.
February 22, 2005
Please share with him that his friends in the south east are very pleased to hear that all is well and we are some big supporters of his new CD. Try sending his marketing information to the Richmond Jazz Society and that will be start hopefully to get him back in this area with an agency base. Mention also Virginia State now has a radio station and we are trying to gat a jazz spot on the agenda. Great for Joe! Nicholas