Meet Ben Zweig [Drums]
Where are you from? I was born in New York City and raised primarily in Randolph, NJ. I spent most of my childhood playing drums in the basement and running around in the woods near my house. I went to a public high school, I swam in meets and played soccer. Early on I was interested in science too. The one constant growing up was music, I was always off from one rehearsal to another. Staying busy playing music all day was, and still is, peace for me.
How did you meet Champian? Champian and I met at Litchfield Jazz Camp I believe in 2012. I was working at the camp as a counselor and she was teaching. During the camp, I often went to go see other instrumental masterclasses besides just the drum set class. Champian was giving a "listening" class where she played records and asked people to name the musicians on the recordings. Somewhere in the middle of the class, I was proud to have correctly named Earl Hines on a late trio recording. It was particularly memorable because I couldn't for the life of me name the drummer, I recognized the sound but couldn't place it. After Champian revealed who it was, I could hardly believe Elvin Jones and Earl Hines had ever performed together. It was so unlike the Elvin Jones playing I knew. Afterwards, I told Champian how much I enjoyed the class. We talked more about music and in the following years I went to hear her band perform all over New York City. One day she called me to play a gig with her. I was excited because I was gonna get to play her music which I had enjoyed listening to from years before that. That's how I first met her and started performing with her.
What's Champian really like? Haha, it's really hard to give justice to someone's spirit in words. I think the best way to feel what Champian is really like is to see her perform live or just listen to her music. For me, her music is powerful but also sensitive. She knows what she wants, yet she's elegant about it, she doesn't force it. Having spent time with her on and off the bandstand, it's inspiring to me to see that the Champian in the tour van, has the same incredible energy and personality as the Champian on stage. She's a musician who's genuine, which I think is rare.
Why did you become a Jazz drummer, and who are your influences? Growing up in Randolph, NJ it's hard to see a lot of live music, so I first fell for jazz by listening to records. Two of my earliest CD's, which I nearly melted because I left them on repeat for so long, were "Meet the Jazztet" with Lex Humphries playing the most beautiful cymbal pattern, and John Coltrane's "Live at Birdland" with Elvin's raw ferocious playing. Really that was my first jazz education, my CD collection and the boombox. The early interest that I showed helped convince my parents to support my music. I feel very fortunate they did, driving me to classes in Newark, NJ and also to lessons all over. Coming up I played trumpet, steel drums, and was serious about classical percussion too. In high school, I started taking the train into New York City to go see live music. That was it though, once I felt jazz music, live in an intimate venue, I was going to move to New York City and become a part of that. That's why I decided that being a jazz drummer was what I wanted to do.
What's your favorite place you've visited on tour and why? Champian and I have visited a lot of amazing places in only a year of touring together, but the most memorable was after our performance at the Jazz Corner in Hilton Head, SC. We went straight from the gig to the beach that night, still in our dress clothes. We walked down to the water and the stars filled the entire sky and met the sea along the horizon. It was one of those natural sights that just humble you.
What's your favorite movie? I can always watch the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" film. It became something of a cult classic with my younger brother and I growing up. I love the style of animation.
Most recently I saw the Grand Budapest Hotel, I really enjoyed that film, especially the cinematography was so well done. Also it was an interesting film for me because the script for the film was based on a story, written by a late relative of mine, Stefan Zweig.
What's your favorite food? My mom makes an Italian style eggplant sandwich on thick crusty bread with breaded eggplant, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil vinaigrette. I never stand a chance.