Ben Markley - Pianist, Composer/Arranger, Educator

Welcome to! If you'd like more information about upcoming gigs or new charts for big band or vocal jazz ensemble, please join my email list. Thanks for stopping by.

Keep Swingin!


Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 1 RELEASE DAY, Trumpet Section: Terell Stafford 


Terell Stafford has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, he combines a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford’s exceptionally expressive and well defined musical talent allows him to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads.

Terell is one of the busiest people in the business. He leads his own quintet and works regularly with the: Clayton Brothers, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Watson and Horizon, Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, Arts & Crafts,Tim Warfield Group, Dana Hall Group, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Trumpet Summit featuring Jon Faddis and Sean Jones, and Jimmy Heath Big Band. He is the Director of Jazz Studies, Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University and is the Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia. 

I first worked Terell three years ago working in Josh Quinlan's band. We played a series of gigs in Wyoming and Colorado. The next year we did some more gigs and also did a live recording. Things have continued from there. The day after we played our first gig together, I drove him from Laramie to Denver. It was during that car ride that I asked him about all the world class pianists he had played with. McCoy, Mulgrew, Cedar etc. It was a conversation I will never forget. He was so willing to talk about his experiences with each of them. Although we had only played once together, I knew I needed play and hang with him as much as I could. Mentorship is not the same as it used to be in jazz. Terell is someone who still does it (with me and many others).

When I started to assemble the personnel together for this project, I wanted to feature a guest artist who had ties to Cedar. Terell has worked with Cedar Walton in different groups including the Trumpet Summit Band. When I called Terell to do this recording I asked him if he would like to to solo on a few tracks. He asked about the dates and told me he was good for the whole thing AND he would play in the section too! For me, that set the vibe of the whole session. Terell was just one of the guys when we did the rehearsal, gig, and session. A genuinely good human being and world class musician.

Terell solos on Cedar's Blues, Hindsight, Black, and Holy Land on Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton and they are all out of sight! It was an honor and joy to have him part of this project.

This project was two years in the making there are so many people who helped it succeed. Thank you: Abby Markley Wyoming Arts Council, Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, Wil Swindler, Terell Stafford, Colin Bricker, Theresa Bogard, Trish Schumacher, Michael Peterson, Martha Sammaciccia, Adam MacBlane, St. Louis Music, P. Mauriat, John Bishop, and the band!


Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 2, Trumpet Section: John Lake 

John Lake was a finalist for the 2011 Carmine Caruso Competition. He holds degrees from University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music and the University of Colorado. He works frequently as both a jazz and lead player. Since moving to New York, he has worked with groups like the David Berger Jazz Orchestra, The Stan Rubin Orchestra, and Charlie Rosen’s Broadway Big Band. In the world of musical theater, he has recently backed such luminaries as Jon Lithgow, Marin Mazzie, Kristin Chenoweth, and David Hyde Pierce.
John is an outstanding composer and arranger. He leads the John Lake Ensemble which is a modern hard-bop septet that features his arrangements of standards as well as his compositions. His compositions and arrangements have been featured by the ensembles of New York University, Ithaca College, and The University of Colorado at Boulder. John also leads an experimental jazz-rock collective called Shirley. This group has recorded two albums - From a Bright Clearing and Different-Sized Cages.

I met John while we were attending school at the University of Colorado. We quickly became friends and started hanging and playing a lot. I love talking music with John. He is a very thoughtful person who enjoys as a very eclectic perspective on music and life. While I was sad to see him leave Colorado, I was happy he was moving to NYC. He is a fantastic trumpet player and has quickly established himself in many circles in NYC (not an easy task!). John plays one of my favorite solos on the album on the tune Clockwise. Check him out!

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton available everywhere February 17.

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 3, Trumpet Section: Greg Gisbert 

Greg Gisbert is yet another world class musician in the trumpet section for Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton. His resume reads like a dream. Greg attended Berklee College of Music for a year before being offered a spot in Buddy Rich's band. After playing with Rich from 1985-1986, we went on to work with Woody Herman's Big band under Frank Tiberi's direction (1987 - 1989), John Fedchock and Maria Schneider, Gary Burton (1989), Lew Anderson (1989) and Toshiko Akiyoshi (1989 and subsequently). In the 1990's, he played with Mingus Epitaph (1990 - 1992), Frank Wess, Clark Terry, Mickey Tucker and Buck Clayton (1991), Danny D'Imperio (1991) Norman Simmons (1992), John Hicks (1992). More recent recordings and performances include Roy Hargrove, Maria Schneider, and Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. Greg has three albums as a leader on the Criss Cross label. 

Greg is someone who is equally adept as a lead player and improviser. His impressive discography a reflects this. It was a stroke of good luck for me (and all musicians) to have Greg living in Denver when I moved to town. I tried to hear him as much as I could. I have a lot of fond memories of watching him play at Herbs with Pat Bianchi. Greg is also a great mentor. He hired me to play a weekly session that he hosted at El Chapultepec Too. I learned so much playing with him. He was patient, instructive, and always willing to play and to teach. Greg was also kind enough to play on one my small group recordings Second Introduction OA2 Records. On Clockwise, Greg plays two stunning solos on Fiesta Español and Black (which has some incredible trading with Terell Stafford).

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 4, Trumpet Section: Peter Olstad 

When I take a moment to think about the careers of the members in the trumpet section for this recording, I'm floored. It all starts with world-class lead trumpet player Peter Olstad. Peter went to school at Berklee and finished up at the University of Northern Colorado. In 1981 he joined Buddy Rich's band and spent most of the decade touring with Buddy Morrow and the Tommy Dorsey band, Glenn Miller for a brief tour of Japan, and the Russ Morgan Band under the direction of Jack Morgan. In the late 80s he was part of the trumpet section that toured for Maynard Ferguson's 60th birthday. The other section members included Wayne Bergeron and Roger Ingram (WOW!). From there Maynard asked Peter to join his Big-Bop Noveau band - a gig that lasted two and half years. Peter has also worked for extended periods with Tom Jones and Latin pop star Luis Miguel. 

I first got to play with Peter at Ace Gillett's in Fort Collins. While the playing was great, I vividly remember talking with him on the breaks. He was incredibly humble and open to talking about his life in music. Each year there are fewer musicians who actually make their living solely from playing. Peter has been doing it his whole life (a testament to his excellent playing!). Shortly after we played at Ace, Peter called me for a gig. I learned about this great sense of humor on this gig. After the first set, he came up to the band and in complete deadpan says "Uh, hey guys, I've been getting some complaints about your playing." - and then walked away! He let things sit for a few minutes, and finally I caught a glimpse of a smirk. We all had a healthy laugh. It's an honor to play with Pete and I am very grateful he played on the record. While writing these charts, it was very comforting knowing a world-class lead player would be playing. Some highlights of his playing on the record are Cedar's Blues, Fiesta Español and Bolivia. 

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton available everywhere Friday, February 17.

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 5, Trombone Section: Gary Mayne 

Bass trombone is one of the special instruments in a big band that can significantly enhance the overall sound of the ensemble. Furthermore, great bass trombonists are hard find. Gary Mayne is one of the great ones. He has not lived in Colorado for years and is STILL the first call bass trombonist when all of the top front range groups record! As a big band performer he has performed and recorded regularly with groups such as the 9th and Lincoln Orchestra, the Steve Owen Big Band, The Fred Hess Big Band, The Steve Lippia Big Band, the Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra, the Colorado Jazz Orchestra, the H2 Big Band, the Fred Hess Big Band, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

Gary works in a variety of situations. As a symphonic musician, Gary has performed with the Colorado Symphony, the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, the Wyoming Symphony and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. As a commercial musician Gary has recorded as a sideman and in horn sections for over 20+ albums. 

I first met Gary in 2010. He was the Assistant Director Bands at Fossil Ridge High School. His band blew me away! I came away from the performance saying "who is this guy?" Shortly after I was talking with one of my friends, and he said "yeah, you should hear him play bass trombone!" 

When I was putting the band together for my project I took a shot and asked Gary and I'm so glad he was able to do it! Check out the first solo sendoff on Clockwise as well as the low bombs he drops on Bolivia. He absolutely killed the entire recording!

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton available everywhere February 17.


Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 6, Trombone Section: Adam Bartczak 

Adam Bartczak is a trombonist, composer and arranger. He has been rooted in Denver for several years. His compositions have been performed by the West Point Academy’s Jazz Knights, the University of North Texas One O’clock Lab Band, Denver’s 9th and Lincoln Jazz Orchestra. Performances of his arrangements for jazz orchestra have featured artists such as Donny McCaslin, Jeff Coffin, Robin Eubanks, Brian Lynch, Billy Pierce, and Geoffrey Keezer. 

He leads his own big band (Adam Bartczak Rebublic). I was lucky enough to play on this band's debut recording Grass is Greener  in 2013. This record features some very creative writing along with excellent playing.

Adam plays frequently around the Denver-Metro area in a variety of bands. He also leads his own small group The Democracy which features top flight Denver musicians including Don Byron. 

It was a real pleasure having Adam on my session and I look forward to working with him more in the future. Check him out!

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton available everywhere February 17.

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton - Release Countdown Day 7, Trombone Section: Paul McKee 

Trombonist Paul McKee has been well known among jazz musicians for many years. He joined Woody Herman's band in 1984 and has played on many Grammy-nominated recordings with the band. Paul has taught at several universities including DePaul, Youngstown State, Northern Illinois, the University of Missouri at Kansas City and Florida State. While going to school in Kansas, my friend Clint Ashlock hipped me to Paul when he was studying at UMKC. I remember Clint saying "man, you gotta hear this guy play the trombone.... and the arrangements!" Upon doing my homework I found out just how great Paul was... and then some! Paul's debut recording as a leader Gallery  features performances by Carl Fontana, Bobby Shew, Tim Ries and Ron Stout. He also has many published arrangements. Two of my favorites are The Messenger and Beautiful Love.

When I moved to Colorado I got to hear Paul regularly at the UNC Jazz Festival. When he took the job at the University of Colorado I was excited he would be here permanently and really hoped we would work together. One of the first gigs I got to play with him was with another Iowa native Dick Oatts.... a memorable evening to say the least! It's always a joy to make music with Paul. He brings it no matter the situation. On Clockwise Paul plays two burning solos on Bolivia and Fiesta Español. Outstanding playing!

On another note, I have added some wonderful recordings to my collection just by following Paul on Facebook. I regularly check in on his posts to get new listening recommendations.

Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton available everywhere February 17. 

Join our mailing list for the latest news


Tarleton State University Jazz Festival

 —  —

Festival Combo with Ari Hoenig