Andrew Bemkey


Andrew Bemkey

Andrew Bemkey is a musician who honors the tradition, knows and loves the music of the masters, and doesn't sound like anyone ever heard before. He has an extraordinary ability to share his impassioned artistic journey with band mates and audiences alike. It's very moving to hear him, to witness his courage and sensitivity, and to be washed in the beauty of his musical expression.

Andrew was born in 1974 in Libertyville, a little town outside of Chicago, and grew up in Elkhart, Indiana. After finishing high school, he moved to New York City and was fortunate to be schooled and inspired by three great musical mentors: Jaki Byard, Makanda Ken McIntyre, and Reggie Workman. During this time Andrew also began his own band, KinShip, which he maintained for three years, composing original music for the group, playing piano, keyboards, wooden flutes, and small percussion instruments. Meanwhile, master musicians such as Rashied Ali, Andrew Cyrille, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, and William Parker were calling on Andrew Bemkey to play in their bands. Mr. Cyrille, Ori Kaplan, and Mr. Workman first brought Andrew into annual Vision Festivals, while in the year 2OOO, as the youngest of some 5O bandleaders, Andrew brought in his KinShip trio — and brought down the house. In the Vision Festival of 'O1, Andrew was again heard in Rashied Ali's group with Frank Lowe and others, and in 'O2 Andrew was proud to play piano in Roy Campbell, Jr's large-ensemble salute to Buhaina (Art Blakey).

In this time, New York-area concert venues for Andrew included, among others: Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building, Borders Books & Music, Brecht Forum, Christian Parish for Spiritual Renewal, Context Studios, the Cooler, 5C Cultural Center (solo piano every Friday since mid-'O1, and continuing), the Empire Diner (solo piano Wednesdays for a year), the Knitting Factory, Lenox Lounge (every Monday night for three years with Roy Campbell, Jr's band), Merkin Concert Hall, the Museum of Modern Art, New School Performance Space, Northsix, Roulette, Rue B, St. Peter's Church, Sista's Place, and Tonic, and a bit out of town, Princeton and Wesleyan Universities. Andrew also enjoys playing in nursing homes, hospitals and youth centers, which he's done most frequently with singer Ellen Christi, sometimes with trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr., and at other times with Reggie Workman's groups.

Andrew Bemkey's original music was featured in an off-Broadway play, and later he was heard in the stage band of William Parker's "Dancin' at the Belltown Rack" at Theatre for the New City. He has toured with drummer Susie Ibarra, playing duets at HotHouse in Chicago; his travels with alto saxophonist Ori Kaplan's groups led to Rome (the Villa Cellimontana Festival), Finland (Tampere Jazz Happening), and Paris (more intimate settings); and Andrew played in a Lawrence "Butch" Morris ensemble in Lisbon (Jazz em Agosto Festival) as well as several more here in New York.

In the summer of 2002 Andrew began a love affair with the bass clarinet that has blossomed into a new form for his musical expression while strengthening his relationship with the piano. Word is spreading, and now Andrew is being called upon to play his horn with nearly as much frequency as the piano. As a leader he was heard in 2005 playing bass clarinet & drum duets with Michael Thompson at the Vision Club Series and Newman Taylor Baker at John Zorn's new venue, The Stone.

For the past several years Andrew has been a regular member of both Roy Campbell, Jr's band "Tazz" and the Billy Bang Quintet, playing concerts and festivals in the U.S. and Europe, including the Sons d'hiver Festival in Paris and the Other Minds Music Festival in San Francisco. While still emerging as a recording artist, Andrew will be featured on two Billy Bang Quintet CDs to be released in the coming months.

August of 2005 found Andrew playing several concerts of note in New York City with Roy Campbell, Jr. at the Jazz Standard, Billy Bang at Sweet Rhythm, and the alto saxophonist Saco Yasuma at a concert in Central Park. In September, Andrew reunited with Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali in a Roy Campbell, Jr-led birthday tribute to master John Coltrane. The group played four sold-out sets at The Stone to the joy of audience and musicians alike.


I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and sound in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center. I also hope that we will stand ready to resist in whatever ways we can the continuing (and now accelerated) transformation of this country into a militarized state. If similar events around the world have shown us anything, it is that soldiers on every corner with machine guns and endless checkpoints do more to take away our rights and freedoms than to insure our security; and that acts of vengeance only serve to escalate the violence and the madness. Someone has to lay down his gun. As an improvising musician for whom risk is commonplace, it is ever clear to me that the only security to be had (or desired) is one born of love. We all must die someday; while we are living, let us make it a life of love.

Yours in the music,
Andrew Bemkey

September 20, 2001

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