Roy Benson

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One of the most versatile bassists in musical history, this mild-mannered Englishman holds down a chair in London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and has proven on record that can play everything from…
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One of the most versatile bassists in musical history, this mild-mannered Englishman holds down a chair in London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and has proven on record that can play everything from James Bond themes to state of the art Latin pop. Benson began music at nine and it was sort of a process of following the pitch ranges down to where he seems to have felt most comfortable, the basement. His first instrument was recorder--not tenor, alto or bass but soprano--and that was followed by the cello. When the bassist dropped out of the school orchestra, the conductor examined the hands of the entire cello section to find out whose were the biggest. It was Benson who had the huge mitts, and he had just leaped a hurdle in terms of acceptable criteria for a professional bassist. Still reluctant to switch instruments, Benson apparently had to be bribed with an offer to drop the lesson of his choice in order to carve out time for to the bass instruction. And that's how he became a bass player, and got to drop chemistry.

He has played with the RPO since 1977, particularly thriving under the direction of conductor Daniele Gatti. Benson admits that one of his favorite aspects of the orchestra engagements is that several road crew members are assigned to schlep his bass around. Benson is involved as a volunteer with environmental issues and admits to being an avid jazz listener. This made him an ideal collaborator for the intriguing composer and teacher George Russell, one of the original blenders of jazz and classical. Benson's contributions to this so-called third stream style can be heard on the Russell album Birthstone Suite, recorded in 1988. In 1993 Benson recorded for the first time with Latin vocalist Luis Cobos. The bassist is no relation to either the famous gym coach or brass instrument designer of the same name, and is also sometimes confused with the incredibly obscure '50s and '60s songwriter and singer Roy Benson.