Bill Banfield



This beautifully conceived and executed CD reinforces Bill’s refusal to be confined by externally imposed labels.  This is just a CD of first class music: music that has integrity, music that acknowledges its roots and yet imaginatively predicts some new and exciting directions for composition, orchestration, and performance.  Jazzchamberworks is a brilliant offering by one of America’s brightest young talents.

   David Baker, composer, jazz educator, and director of the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra


   This recording represents a lovely blend of Bill’s beautiful voice as a composer, arranger, and orchestrator (one who searches for new colors and sounds) and his lively orchestra.  He displays the individual voices of his musicians in a way that illuminates his own personality, but also allows the varied personalities of the gifted individuals to shine through.  It’s wonderful to hear the energy of a live performance such as this.  It’s a risk that so few musicians are willing to take these days.  But thankfully, some musicians such as Bill Banfield, still revel in the joy and excitement of spontaneity.

   —Maria Schneider, composer, jazz orchestra director


   Bill is an exciting composer who is extending a musical tradition pioneered by James Reese Europe, Will Marion Cook, William Grant Still, and Duke Ellington.  Bill’s music has many facets, and represents a personal statement which is sorely needed in music today

   —Dr. Billy Taylor, composer, jazz educator,

   host/director Jazz at the Kennedy Center


   William Cedric Banfield belongs to a vanguard of eclectic, young composers whose backgrounds, training, and creative output traverse traditional categories. While building on the achievements of such "elder statesmen" as Hale Smith, George Russell, and T. J. Anderson, Banfield's creative work strikes out in bold new directions. A college professor, Banfield has accrued a long list of accomplishments that clearly place him among the ranks of America's original compositional voices. His work has been widely recognized, having been performed by professional and university orchestras in the United States. His activities have earned distinguished awards, grants, commissions, and residencies. At the same time, he remains involved in jazz, gospel, and popular idioms by maintaining an active performance career as a jazz guitarist.


Banfield spent his formative years in Detroit, Michigan, in a middle-class family considered "old-siders," or black residents of long standing. On the young Banfield's insistence, his parents gave him a guitar at the age of eight. The energy of Detroit's vibrant black musical scene, especially the presence of Motown Records, provided the backdrop for Banfield's apprenticeship years. Growing up, he had formal guitar lessons, played woodwind instruments in elementary and middle school ensembles, performed for school functions, and sang in his church's gospel choir, which he also directed for a brief period. During these years, Banfield formed a number of ensembles that provided him valuable opportunities to experiment with composition and arranging. At Cass Technical High School, an important Detroit institution that produced such musical talents as Diana Ross, Ron Carter, and Greg Phillinganes, Banfield became consumed with formal musical studies and an active performance schedule (student and professional). In 1978, a Chrysler Corporation scholarship allowed him to study guitar in Acapulco, Mexico, under the auspices of the Mexican Federation of Musicians.


Continuing his musical education, Banfield studied at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, earning a bachelor of music degree in guitar performance in 1983. At Boston University, he earned the degree of master of theological studies. While in Boston, he studied composition primarily with composers T. J. Anderson, William Thomas McKinley, Donal Fox, and George Russell. Banfield also maintained an active musical career, founding a recording and production company called B Magic Operations that released several commercial recordings. He taught music at several institutions, including the Boston public schools, Boston Music Community Center, Tanglewood's Days in the Arts, and the YADI (Young Artists Development Inc.) school for performing arts, which he founded. Banfield completed his formal education in 1992 at the University of Michigan, where he studied with the composers Leslie Basset, William Bolcom, and William Albright. While earning his doctorate at Michigan, he performed with and composed for local jazz and fusion groups around Ann Arbor and his native Detroit.


In 1992, Banfield joined the faculties of Indiana University’s Department of Afro-American Studies and the music department at that university's Indianapolis campus, where he directed two performing groups. In 1997, he moved to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, as holder of an endowed chair in the Humanities and Fine Arts. Banfield's compositional output includes eight symphonies, concertos, operas, stage works, music for chorus and string quartet, song cycles, and chamber works for various instruments. Banfield has earned numerous grants and awards and has held residencies at several institutions. In 1993 Banfield's Symphony no. 2 received a nomination from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Banfield's philosophy about the art-music composer's role in society reveals the breadth and complexity of his background. He sees himself as a 'public ambassador for the arts," a position that compels him to create works that will "draw in new listeners and supporters" to what is commonly thought of as an elitist fringe of society. Banfield believes that the juxtaposition of the many styles that comprise the popular music scene today has prepared younger audiences for similar developments in art music.

The BMagic Orchestra


This special ensemble is made up of some of the best performing artists from around the Twin Cities area. We have been performing together consistently since February,1998. The orchestra has recorded with, and/or enjoyed the guest artist appearances of: Patrice Rushen, Bobby McFerrin, Billy Childs, Don Byron, the Philip Brunelle Ensemble Singers, Sounds of Blackness, Mark Ledford, Nelson Rangel, and vocalists Dan Dressen, Krystal Banfield, Beth Comuez, and Jim Borne.


When I conceptualized my orchestra I imagined the music to be "right" for a variety of audiences. Today artists are simultaneously drawn into multiple traditions for their expressions. In short I "sample the culture," not digitally, but musically. In these orchestrations I incorporate the culture and languages of Jazz, Hip Hop, Soul and other popular music(s) of our times. I try to redefine all this through my own voice as a composer and performer, and shape my orchestrations accordingly. The BMagic Orchestra contains a variety of colors (strings, winds, brass) that allow me as a composer to weave the concert experience together as one might hear a chamber-like, jazz ensemble that swings. I have some great friends who "share" in the orchestra and as performers they all have very special voices and approaches to playing. We don't see and "play" our group as a "big band" at all. It is more a collective of instruments and players, independent colors that match, melt, rub, blend, shift and shimmer. That's how I see the orchestra: as colors, voices that blend, crumble and crunch. The ensemble is a sharing environment and the process of caress, subtle shaping, reach, and experiment is equally as important as "nailing it". Warning!  This performance is an artitistic attempt to gamble with experimental and spontaneous composition; we’re having a great time.  That's what we created here and that's what was captured on this night, November 18, 1999, in the magnificent courtroom of the old Federal courthouse — now Landmark Center. Live.