BEN SOLLEE 915PM
BECCA STEVENS 8PM
Kentucky-born cellist and composer Ben Sollee likes to keep moving. He kicked off 2014 with the release of his score for the documentary film Maidentrip. In March, he performed at Carnegie Hall as part of a tribute to Paul Simon. And you may have caught Sollee on the road supporting song-writer William Fitzsimmons throughout April and May. If you’ve seen him perform, you know it’s not to missed.
For listeners just discovering Ben’s music, you’ll find that there’s a lot more to it than songs. Over the 6 years following the release of his debut record, Learning to Bend, Sollee has told an unconventional story with his rugged cello playing. Seeking a deeper connection to communities on the road, Ben first packed his touring life onto his bicycle in 2009. Since then he has ridden over 4,000 miles from show to show. He has been invited to perform and speak on sustainability at a number of festivals including South by Southwest Music (2011) and TEDx San Diego (2012).
Closer to home, Ben has devoted a tremendous amount of energy to raising awareness about the practice of mountaintop removal mining in Central Appalachia. His 2010 collaborative album Dear Companion (Sub Pop) brought together fellow Kentucky artist Daniel Martin Moore with producer Jim James (My Morning Jacket) to shed light on the issue. In teaming up with international organizations such as Patagonia Clothing and Oxfam America, Ben has come to be known as a thoughtful activist who mobilizes his audiences to take environmental actions through the power of live music.
Like his contemporaries Chris Thile and Abigail Washburn, Sollee’s music is difficult to pin down. Following a performance at the Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, the New York Times remarked how Sollee’s “…meticulous, fluent arrangements continually morphed from one thing to another. Appalachian mountain music gave way to the blues, and one song was appended with a fragment from a Bach cello suite, beautifully played.” It’s Ben’s quality of narrative and presence on stage that unifies his musical influences.
However, always on the move, Sollee’s musical career has expanded beyond the stage into film and TV. Shows like ABC’s Parenthood and HBO’s Weeds have placed featured Ben’s songs. In 2013, he was invited by director Mark Steven Johnson to write a song for the film Killing Season starring John Travolta and Robert De Niro. Ben has also has written music for ballet, most recently performing with the North Carolina Dance Theater in the world premiere of Dangerous Liaisons, and is currently at work on scores for several pieces of theatre. He continues touring, including headlining dates throughout the United States in the fall of 2014, and has recently returned from his first solo tour of Europe, which took him to three countries to play eleven shows in two weeks.