Rhythm Section

Jim Howe (Percussion):  Jim began playing drums at age nine and performed with his first band soon thereafter.  During high school he studied jazz drumming with John Roy and percussion with James Rago of the Louisville Orchestra.  He performed with popular dance bands in Louisville throughout high school and college.  In 1978, Jim moved to San Francisco to further his musical career but instead ended up as a scientist.  He returned to drumming in 2007 when he began sitting in with George Melvin on Monday nights at South Street Brewery, and later became his regular drummer in the B3 Quartet.  Since then, he has played with many local and regional music notables, including Royce Campbell, Stephanie Nakasian, Hod O’Brien, Mike Elswick, Bob Bowen, Lew Morrison, Tom Harbeck, Vince Lewis, Randy Johnston, Dwight Spencer, John Jensen, Larry Bisgaier, Waverly Milor, Dan Sebring, Lesly Gourdet, and Susanna Rosen to name a few, and also in groups with other SJ members such as Bob Benetta, Monica Worth, Steve Brecker, and Dick Orange. Recently he launched his retirement gig as co-owner of Possum’s Store, an art and music venue in Criglersville, VA, with his wife Renee Balfour.

Bob Benetta (Piano):  Born and raised in Port Chester, NY, Bob told a grammar school friend that the piano was to be his career.  Or so she reported to him many years later.  During high school and college years he became serious about jazz although he kept up his interest in classical piano.  He came to central Virginia because of his interest in Yogaville and here he remains, certainly the only full time musician in Sentimental Journey.  He identifies as influences Bill Evans and Bud Powell and mentioned how deeply he admires the work of Duke Ellington, although Bach and Debussy remain strong figures in his musical imagination.  Bob tells me he found his musical voice only about 15 years ago.   He plays regularly at Fellini’s and at Sipps and usually has about three or four piano students.  He has released two CDs and is planning a third to be done with a trio to be called “Live at Fellini’s.”

Don Houser (Bass):  Born and raised in Staunton, Don took up trombone in 5th grade and continued with it through high school.  For a time, he played trombone in the Stonewall Brigade Band.  After college, he played bass with various bluegrass groups.  Indeed, he answered an ad and ended up playing bass with other bluegrass players in the Robber Bridegroom.  Through his playing, he met Al Winters and played with combos that Winters organized.   Al led him to SJ and to swing music.  Don has been with Valley Building Supply for 30 years, “trying to convince builders to buy from us rather than Lowe’s.”  He likes going to the beach, which makes sense to me.