You never know quite what to expect from Rhode Island musician Ben Shaw. At any given live show, you might hear jazz, classical, or acoustic guitar. Frequently shifting between musical styles throughout his career, Shaw explains he’s not really tied to genre much these days. His latest project is a series of open sessions held on the third Thursday of each month at the Warren House of Pizza.
You may be wondering, ‘a music residency at a pizza joint?’ But it’s the perfect fit for a town that takes pride in its unofficial motto of “Keep Warren Weird.” And for Shaw, it was a no-brainer. “My buddy Mauricio Ossa and his business partner Ed Gomez bought the Warren House of Pizza during the pandemic. Mauricio and I have been playing for years. I sit in on saxophone with his band sometimes; we have a really good relationship.”
Initially, Shaw played with the idea of running a jazz night at the restaurant, but he’s recently focused his creative energy on songwriting. Recently released album Seven Songs is his first collection of pieces he wrote treading into acoustic territory. “I really view myself now as more of a singer-songwriter; I think my voice comes through a little bit more in that, so I’ve been focusing more on doing that and mixing it in with other genres,” he explains.
How are the sessions organized? “I bring my band, we go on stage and play a couple of tunes; it can be anything we want it to be,” says Shaw. “If I want to play a song that I had just written that week, we’ll do it. It’s kind of like an open rehearsal, as if you were in somebody’s basement when a band is rehearsing. You’re there, you’re hearing the jokes, you’re getting the stories, you’re seeing the looseness of it. I think that is kind of unique in the state; there doesn’t seem to be that spot where you can be loose and experimental.”
The theme will vary from month to month – expect the unexpected. “Ryan Kowal is coming in October. He’ll be doing an experimental jazz thing,” notes Shaw. “We also have this great singer Michelle MyBelle Hill, who has an R&B electronic groove thing; she’ll sit in with us.” Shaw’s even looking for classical ensembles that might want to play the series.
Shaw is embracing a multi-genre approach in his career and with the artists he brings to his sessions. “I’ve been really heartened over the last few years. The ‘genre’ thing seems to be more and more stripped away, and people are recognizing that music is this kind of fluid, amorphous thing that you can kind of dip in and out of.”
On top of this, Shaw’s list of creative endeavors only continues to grow. In September, he released “Madeline,” the first single from a new album planned to drop in December. This latest work will be accompanied by a novella Shaw has penned – so feel free to add “author” to his list of achievements. BenjaminShawMusic.com
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