Violinist Gwen Laster and bassist Damon Banks, “collaborating spouses” for over 20 years, perform their latest music and discuss their creative process playing across global genres with the likes of Sun Ra Arkestra, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Angelique Kidjo, and more!
Gwen and Damon have performed together as "collaborating spouses" for over 20 years. Their work, as creative musicians and composers, is expansive and combines various genres and schools of thought, such as: Free-form Improvised Music, World Music, Soul/R&B, Jazz and European Classical. They have individually collaborated with some of the music industry's brightest stars, and creative minds. These relationships helped develop their expansive and broad musical vocabulary. Some of their performance, recording and touring credits include: Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra Arkestra, Alicia Keys, George Benson, Peter Gabriel, Angelique Kidjo, "Wadada" Leo Smith, Brooklyn Raga Massive, KRS-ONE, Rhianna, Mark Anthony, Andrea Bocelli, Aretha Franklin, Hassan Hakmoun, Saul Williams, The Neville Brothers, Sekou Sundiata, David Foster and Shaggy (among others). They feel a deep sense of gratitude as performers and teaching artists in the BRM family.
Gwen Laster is a nationally acclaimed musician who has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jubilation Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Arts Mid Hudson, Lila Wallace, and the Cognac Hennessey 1st place Jazz Search. She’s a native Detroiter whose creative influences come from the Motor City’s exciting urban and classical music culture. Gwen started improvising and composing because of her parents' love of jazz, blues, soul, and classical music, and her inspiring music teachers from Detroit’s public schools.Laster relocated to NYC after earning two music degrees from the University of Michigan. She began collaborating, performing and recording with internationally-known creative and commercial artists. that include Anthony Braxton, Nona Hendryx, Aretha Franklin, Wadada Leo Smith, William Parker, Danny Elfman, Sun Ra Arkestra, Tyler the Creator, Gladys Knight, Emeline Michel, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Alicia Keys, Rhianna, Shaggy, Andrew Baba Lamb, Natalie Cole, Solange, Mark Anthony, J Lo and Shakira at President Obama’s Inaugural Neighborhood Ball. Playing local jazz clubs and subbing Broadway shows (Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Carousel, Wicked, Porgy and Bess, The King and I) were woven around Gwen’s NYC performing and teaching rhythm. With this momentum, Laster began leading original music ensembles, orchestrating and composing string arrangements.
About Damon Banks
Born and raised in The Bronx, New York Damon Banks has evolved into a "world musician" in the truest sense of the word. Growing up in New York City, he was exposed to all aspects of the arts at an early age, as well as a wide range of musical genres, approaches and "schools of thought". At 14 years old, Damon was fortunate to enroll in the prestigious "Fame School" (High School of Music & Art - as a visual artist) Those 4 years were some of the most inspirational and impactful years of his life (musically and artistically) Upon graduation from Fisk University (B.A.Music) he decided to pursue a career in music full time. Since then, he has evolved into an "in-demand” bassist and composer, and has worked with some of the music industry’s most creative artists, innovative musicians and brightest stars. His ability to adapt creatively and remain open-minded has led him into countless collaborations with genre-bending, musical trendsetters worldwide.
Some of these artists include:
George Benson, Peter Gabriel, Caetano Veloso, Angelique Kidjo, Chico Hamilton, Hassan Hakmoun, Arto Lindsay, Marc Ribot, Loose Ends, Leo Wadada Smith, The Neville Brothers, Andre de Shields, Bobby Womack, C.J. Chenier, Saul Williams, Noel Pointer, Ronny Jordan, Majek Fashek, KRS-ONE, Brooklyn Raga Massive, Phyllis Hyman, George Howard, Karsh Kale, DJ. SPOOKY, The Frankfurt Ballet, The Weather Girls, Eric Gadd, Min Xiao-Fen, Ntozake Shange, Me’lissa Morgan, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, Roxane Butterfly, Angela Bofill and Adam Rudolph (to name a few). In addition to numerous tours and recordings, his bass playing appears on these soundtracks: “Footsteps In Africa” (Kiahkeya films) and “Muppets from Space” (Henson / Sony films). As a composer, Damon wrote, produced and arranged his 2014 debut LP “Travelguides”, and several tracks on Violinist Gwen Laster’s "Sneak Preview" / "I Hear You Smiling" / "Gameboard" records. He also co-wrote the singles “Where Are You Now" (George Benson) and “Kiss Of A Stranger” (Miki Howard)
Lately, Damon has been an international teaching artist, and has led and / or workshops and facilitated grant-supported teaching initiatives for: The El Sistema Organization, Bard College, Interlochen School of the Arts, Cal Arts, Wesleyan University, St. Ann’s School and Medger Evers College.