homebiomusicapppearancesphotoslinksContact
"Cassara…establishes that personal, one-to-one connection with the listener…"
- Elliot Ames, WVOX AM

Mailing List

Just In...

Jazz at Kitano, New York City, October 6, 2016

  One of the most engaging vocalists around is Ben Cassara.  He has an understated delivery that reflects his gentle personality, but there is always in evidence a strong jazz influence in his vocalizing and choice of material.  
  One of his artistic inspirations is the late singer/pianist/songwriter Bobby Troup. Fittingly he opened his second set at Jazz at Kitano with Troup’s “The Feeling of Jazz.”  He certainly had the right support to enhance his jazz credentials, Scott Robinson on reeds, Billy Test on piano, Iris Ornig on bass and Mark McLean on drums.
  Cassara lent his light baritone to twelve tunes, all of them wonderful, and many winningly hip. Particularly notable were his readings of  “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” ”Love Turns Winter to Spring” and “Then Was Then and Now Is Now.”  The first and the last have lyrics by Peggy Lee, and The Four Freshmen memorably recorded the first two. Cassara caught the magic of all three songs.  Among his other selections were “Give Me
the Simple Life,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” “Nobody’s Heart,” “When Lights Are Low,” “I Can Dream Can’t I,” “Underneath the Apple Tree,” “ Lilac Wine” and “Sunday in New York,” a truly tasteful selection.
  Robinson is perhaps the most eclectic musician in jazz who plays a plethora of instruments and is at home in virtually any jazz style.  On this occasion he played tenor sax and flute, adding just the right touches to Cassara’s vocals, and performing several exciting soli. Test, a graduate of the William Paterson University jazz program, plays with a maturity that belies his youth.  Iris Ornig has been active on the New York scene since she arrived from her native Germany in 2003. She leads a weekly jam session at the Kitano on Monday evenings.  McLean is among the busiest drummers on the New York City scene, and has been featured with Catherine Russell and Michael Feinstein among many others.
  Cassara and his colleagues presented a set of thoroughly satisfying music at the intimate setting provided by Jazz at Kitano.

Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz, December 2016 issue

Cafe Noctambulo at Pangea, June 5, 2015

   He seems a most mild-mannered, unassuming gentleman. Yet when Ben Cassara seated himself center stage for a one-off appearance at Cafe Noctambulo recently, he commanded attention. Cassara’s singing has an almost conversational quality at times. He clips some (not all) notes to create an almost pizzicato kind of effect—and when he does sustain a note, there’s very little vibrato evident. Plus he has crisp diction; you hear every lyric in every song. But the adjective “conversational” doesn’t really do Cassara justice, as it implies “small talk.” Cassara, who has a background in stage acting, is more than just chit-chatty. He connects emotionally with a song’s sentiments and actions—and does so without overstatement or fuss. He’s one jazz singer for whom words aren’t just syllables on which to hang notes. They’re the very center of the song. Cassara can certainly sing a scat line—it’s something he did occasionally during the Noctambulo show. But it’s decidedly not his specialty. He seems more at home when he’s communicating an idea through words. He opened with a version of “Singin’ in the Rain” (Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown) that expressed simple, quotidian contentment. His second number, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (“Feelin’ Groovy”) expressed a similar mood, but the number’s hypnotic arrangement helped Cassara and his band (led by pianist Addison Frei) take things to a higher level of blissed-out indolence.
   The musicians seemed in full sync with Cassara throughout the program. Every time I hear Frei play, I am more impressed with the bountiful musicality he brings to the stage. He was terrific here. The intelligent playing of bassist Iris Ornig and drummer Mark McClean brought further texture to the mix. And, on several selections, talented young saxophonist Adam Rongo sat in with the combo. A kind of adamant quality in Rongo’s playing frequently offset Cassara’s gentle vocals to nice effect.
   Early in the show Cassara performed a group of songs written or co-written by Bobby Troup. Among the best of these was the pairing of a melancholic “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast” (Troup and Jerome J. Leshay) and a sprightly “Girl Talk” (Troup and Neil Hefti).
   The evening’s high point for me consisted of a pair of back-to-back Rodgers and Hart titles. The first was a sensitive “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” featuring a potent sax solo by Rongo. The other was a version of “Nobody’s Heart (Belongs to Me)” inspired by an André Previn arrangement for Doris Day that appeared on an album Cassara listened to repeatedly as a young man. The number began with piano accompaniment alone. Then the other musicians swept in, and the pace quickened. Frei’s later piano interlude here was splendid. For the most part, Cassara treated Hart’s “I’m just fine with being single” sentiment non-ironically. (He smiled upon noting that he was happy with the moon being “just a moon”). Only occasionally was there a hint that self-sufficiency was in danger of giving way to loneliness.
   Cassara’s set (the second of two that night) closed with a salute to 2015 centenarians Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. The Holiday selection was a rendition of “You’ve Changed” (Bill Carey, Carl Fischer) that would have delighted Stanislavsky with its precisely evoked emotions. Cassara made each iteration of the word “changed” seem like the pang of a wounded heart. His Sinatra tribute number, “The Song Is You” (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II), started off well, but, unfortunately, Cassara stumbled on the lyrics and consequently lapsed into some of the aforementioned scat-singing.
   He apologized to the audience for this wrong turn, but that really wasn’t necessary (and it called attention to the trip-up). His performance throughout the evening was more than satisfying. I heartily recommend that admirers of vocal jazz who haven’t yet heard Ben Cassara seek him out.

June 15, 2015 By Mark Dundas Wood (BistroAwards.com)

Sister Moon- The New CD!
Ben Cassara

SISTER MOON—Chandler Records CR- 1001—www.bencassara.com - Sister Moon; Nobody’s Heart; Pretty Woman; I Concentrate On You; Save Your Love For Me; Walkin’ After Midnight; When October Goes; Devil May Care; I Wished On The Moon; Ill Wind; Close Your Eyes; Medley: And We Were Lovers/Two For The Road PERSONNEL: Ben Cassara, vocals; Tedd Firth, piano; David Finck, bass; Bob Malach, tenor sax

"It's hard for me to imagine a more confident debut CD than Ben Cassara's SISTER MOON. It's all there -- the song choices, Tedd Firth's arrangements, & Ben's vocals are excellent, & I cannot wait for the next one!”
Eric Comstock, Arranger, Performer, Pianist, Vocalist

"Completely reminiscent of the days when jazz was so velvety and so available to everyone"
Andrew Martin, YTP Radio/On Sister Moon CD Release Gig at Metropolitan Room

"Want a fresh voice in singers with an XY chromosome? Give this guy Ben Cassara a try. His voice gives hints of Barry Manilow and Bob Dorough-a mid toned tenor that sounds comfortable in his skin. He goes a bit gutsy here by using a Spartan support team of Tedd Firth/p, David Finck/b and Bob Malach/sax that mixes and matches on a dozen covers ranging from Sting to Porter.
"A luminescent take of Sting’s “Sister Moon” creates midnight shadows, while “I Wished on the Moon” is filled with spacious stars. Quiet nights of quiet stars shimmer on the rarely heard “Nobody’s Heart” by Rogers and Hart” and Barry Manilow’s “When October Goes,” keeping the mood quite delicate, save for the slightly assertive “ Devil May Care” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Cassara sounds calm and collected on this cool collection of music, perfect for a night of pensive thoughts."
George W. Harris (Published in Jazz Weekly, July 10, 2014)

"There has long been a thin line between jazz-inspired cabaret singers and jazz vocalists. While the jazz singers improvise more, many cross over into cabaret and vice versa, making it difficult to define exactly what a jazz singer is. Would one consider Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra to be jazz singers? While I would always say no, many others would disagree with me. In any case, Ben Cassara, who makes his recording debut on Sister Moon, is somewhere between the two idioms, having a real feel for both jazz and for singing lyrics fairly straight when they deserve it. Cassara was born and raised in New York City. He sang as a child and was in choirs in both church and high school. He even performed at a televised Carnegie Hall concert when he was 16. Cassara attended college and worked on stage, acting in several Off Off Broadway shows. But at the same time he gravitated towards music, singing in piano bars throughout the East Coast. A few years ago he began teaming up with pianist Tedd Firth, who added a jazz sensibility to his music, as did influential lessons with singer Carol Fredette. For Sister Moon, Cassara and Firth collaborated on the arrangements. The intimate setting, a drumless trio that includes Bob Malach on tenor and bassist David Finck, is perfect for Cassara’s voice. Ben Cassara interprets a diverse repertoire that ranges from 1930s standards to songs by Steven Sondheim, Barry Manilow (Johnny Mercer’s “When October Goes”) and Sting. The set begins with a slow and atmospheric version of Sting’s “Sister Moon.” Cassara really digs into the words, giving the song a slightly different spin than Sting’s version. “Nobody’s Heart,” a sad and thoughtful Rodgers and Hart song, is quietly emotional with fine spots for Firth and Malach. Next, Ben Cassara moves smoothly from the Sondheim ballad “Pretty Woman” to a cooking rendition of “I Concentrate On You” and the soulful Buddy Johnson classic “Save Your Love For Me.” On “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which has a particularly effective tenor solo, Cassara shows that he is at home on bluesy numbers too. The Johnny Mercer lyrics for “When October Goes” were discovered after he passed away. Barry Manilow was given the assignment of writing the melody to his words, creating one of his finest works. Ben Cassara takes the song as a slow and somewhat desolate duet with Tedd Firth. In contrast is a happy rendition of Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care.” “I Wished On the Moon,” made famous by Billie Holiday in 1935, is given a tender and slow version that works well. After an interpretation of “Ill Wind” that is full of inner heat, the set concludes with “Close Your Eyes” and an effective mixture of “And We Were Lovers” and “Two For The Road.” Fans of singers who have a full understanding of the lyrics they interpret while giving the music a gentle swing will enjoy Sister Moon."
Scott Yanow (Published in the May 2014 edition of INSIDE JAZZ Magazine.)

"Cassara...gives a song a unique distinctive flavor all it's own...incredibly intimate..."
Will Friedwald-music critic for The Wall Street Journal and author of numerous books on music including A Biographical Guide To The Great Jazz and Pop Singers."

Ben's debut CD features New York based musicians Tedd Firth on piano, David Finck on bass and Bob Malach on sax, with arrangements done by Firth and Cassara. The CD shows a passion and dedication in molding contemporary and classic songs from The Great American Songbook with jazz sensibilities. All the musicians set the mood for the perfect light night album that you can listen to over and over again.

Songs include Sting's "Sister Moon," Cole Porter's "I Concentrate On You," Buddy Johnson's "Save Your Love For Me" and Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care."

The CD can be ordered directly from Ben by clicking here
CD Baby.com
iTunes
Amazon.com