While growing up in bucolic southern Vermont, a deep love of classical music was fostered by his parent’s strong advocacy of the arts and spurred on by a community rich in culture, live music, and arts awareness. Local jazz guitar legend and educator Attilla Zoller awakened in Ben an intense interest in jazz, emboldening him to continue studies at the Eastman School of Music and the University of North Texas. During this time he met future musical pioneers John Hollenbeck, Henry Hey, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, and studied with jazz greats David Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi, Bill Dobbins and Gary Cambell.
Following a five-year hitch with the U.S.Army’s elite touring group the Jazz Ambassadors, Kono’s broad musical training and experience naturally led him to the infinitely varied musical landscape of New York City. Equally skilled on oboe, english horn, flutes, clarinets and saxophones, his wide range of skills and prowess as an improviser quickly garnered high demand as a sideman. He has performed and recorded with, among many others, Michael Brecker, David Liebman, Bob Berg, Kenny Wheeler, Toots Thielmans, Michel LeGrand, Tim Garland, Joe Locke, Andrew Rathbun, Manuel Valera and David Taylor; with superstars Patti Austin, Deborah Gibson, Hugh Jackman and Liza Minelli; and is a member of the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, the Ed Palermo Big Band, Gotham Winds, the BMI Jazz Composers Orchestra, the New York Jazzharmonic, the Millennium Chamber Symphony, JC Sanford Orchestra and the Jersey Boys Orchestra on Broadway. The eloquent sounds of his woodwinds have graced the stages of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and he can often be heard tearing up a solo at elite jazz venues like the Blue Note, the Jazz Standard, Birdland, and Le Poisson Rouge.
The Ben Kono Group debut CD recording CROSSING was released on Nineteen-Eight Records to a sold-out house at Cornelia Street Cafe in February of 2011 and has been garnering high praise for its thoughtful compositions, lush orchestrations, and edgy improvising. The Group features long-time musical collaborators Henry Hey on piano and Fender Rhodes, Pete McCann on guitars, John Hollenbeck on drums, John Hebert on bass, and Heather Laws on vocals and french horn. In 2013 Kono was awarded the Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Commissioning and Ensemble Development Grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to write and premier a suite for the Group entitled DON’T BLINK. The project was recorded in 2015 and will be released sometime in the near future.