Talking Ear is a five-piece progressive music ensemble based out of the Midwest, committed to providing a unique experience for listeners through composition, collaboration, and improvisation. The band consists of vocalist Estar Cohen, guitarist Daniel Palmer, pianist Benjamin Maloney, bassist Ben Rolston, and drummer Travis Aukerman. Each musician has a distinct voice as an accomplished composer and performer, contributing to an exciting and versatile, yet particularly cohesive sound.
Estar Cohen is an award-winning vocalist, lyricist, composer, and educator based out of Ypsilanti, MI. She has performed alongside renowned musicians including Jon Hendricks, Peter Eldridge, Tad Weed, Pete Siers, David Bixler, Vinny Golia, and Ken Filiano, among others. Estar graduated with a bachelor of music in Jazz Performance from the University of Toledo in 2015 where she studied voice, improvisation, and composition with pianist Tad Weed, guitarist Jay Weik, and “father of vocalese” Jon Hendricks who has called her lyrics "beautiful." Some highlights over the course of those four years include recording her first album Waiting For Dawn, lyricizing the instrumental pieces of late jazz pianist, Herbie Nichols, for Tad Weed's Freedom Ensemble, putting on clinics and concerts with her jazz quintet Talking Ear at numerous Southern Michigan Universities, and exploring the art of free improvisation and improvised poetry with Jay Weik. In 2015, she was chosen as a finalist in the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards and in 2014, was given the Craig's Keyboard Student Composer Award for her original vocal ensemble composition, The Day The Government Shut Down.
Since her graduation, she has traveled as a performer and educator throughout the Midwest and in major cities including New York and Chicago. Notable performances have included New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, Earthwork Harvest Gathering, the Toledo Museum of Art, Ann Arbor’s Edgefest at Kerrytown Concert House, and Michigan's River Street Anthology Project. She was awarded the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award in 2018.
Estar is an avid writer, penning lyrics for Midwest jazz artists including Tad Weed, Travis Aukerman, Dan Palmer, and Benjamin Maloney. Her poetry has been published in Ohio Anthology Bards Again 2016, and in Khroma Magazine. As an educator, Estar has taught songwriting with Michigan label Earthwork Music in partnership with the non-profit SEEDS, and is a private music instructor in the Greater Detroit area.
Daniel Palmer is an active guitarist, composer, and educator based in southern Michigan. He performs throughout the Midwest in a wide variety of settings, including Jazz, Classical, Improvised Music, Celtic, acoustic fingerstyle, Folk, Rock, and other various genres. Dan is currently performing throughout the Midwest with the progressive jazz ensemble, Talking Ear, Jazz/Folk group Estar Cohen Project, and the Celtic/world fusion group, Nessa, in addition to numerous freelance gigs. He is endorsed by Godin Guitars and Cusack Music. Dan holds a B.A. in Music Performance from Albion College, as well as an M.M. from the University of Toledo. He has studied with Charles Tomlin, Jeff Haas, Larry Williams, Jay Rinsen Weik, Michael Gulezian, Gunnar Mossblad, Tad Weed, Bobby Streng, and Mike Pelham. Dan is currently a professor of music at Albion College and Hillsdale College, located in southern Michigan.
Benjamin Maloney is a pianist, composer, and arranger from Toledo, Ohio. He was motivated and drawn to music early in life, beginning piano lessons at the age of six. This early musical intuition inevitably led Ben to explore improvisation and Jazz. Maloney spent the last six years developing his craft within the University of Toledo Music Department, recently graduating with a Bachelors degree in music performance with a Jazz concentration. During his time at UT, Ben had the amazing opportunity to be mentored by and play with acclaimed Jazz and Classical musicians including Claude Black, Tim Whalen, Gunnar Mossblad, Jon Hendricks, and Tad Weed. Additionally, Ben has also been working and playing gigs regularly around the Greater Toledo area for many years as a bandleader and accompanist. Notably, he has been featured twice at the Jazz Master’s Concert Series at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, and was a finalist in the 2013 ASCAP young jazz composers competition.
Ben Rolston is a bass player and composer born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2012, he released his debut album, Fables. Consisting of 10 original compositions, Fables represents a wide palate of stylistic influences, and was well received by audiences and critics alike. The broad vision of music represented on Fables is borne out in the variety of musical projects Rolston has been a part of. As a bassist, Rolston has had the opportunity to perform in an extraordinarily wide array of musical contexts, including hip hop (Tree City), Americana (The Appleseed Collective) and Balkan Music (Ornamatik). Rolston has traveled the world as a musician, performing at the United States Embassy in Honduras, touring the United States extensively for three years as a member of the Appleseed Collective, and participating in musical and cultural exchanges in Japan and India. As a student, he collaborated with master choreographer Dianne McIntyre, and was hand-picked to attend the artist intensive at Ravinia, where he was able to study with Rufus Reid, David Baker, Nathan Davis, and Curtis Fuller. As a professional, he has performed with such musical luminaries as Marcus Belgrave, John Hollenbeck, Tim Ries, Sean Dobbins, Vincent York, Tad Weed, Ellen Rowe, Andrew Bishop, Dwight Adams, Thaddeus Dixon and Vincent Chandler. Following in the footsteps of many other young Ann Arbor musicians, he gained a love of jazz at Community High School (under the direction of Mike Grace), honed his musical skills and taste with world class saxophonist Vincent York, and then attended the University of Michigan Jazz Studies Program in order to absorb the teachings of master musicians such as Robert Hurst and Geri Allen.
Travis Aukerman is a drummer, percussionist, composer, and arranger based in Toledo, OH. He has studied drum set and percussion under Dr. Olman Piedra and Jonathan Ovalle, as well as composition and arranging with Tad Weed. In May of 2015, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Toledo with a Bachelors in Music Performance (jazz concentration). During his time at UT, Travis performed with numerous school ensembles including; the UT Latin Jazz Ensemble, UT Jazz Ensemble, UT Percussion Ensemble, UT Wind Ensemble, and Jazz combos. He has also shared the stage with distinguished musicians including Jon Hendricks, Gilad Atzmon, Clifford Murphy, Jeff Halsey, Vic Juris, and David Bixler. He performs regularly with the Estar Cohen Project, Talking Ear, Dragon Wagon, Stonehouse, and many local groups around the Greater Toledo area. His playing can be heard on the Estar Cohen Project's debut album entitled Waiting for Dawn. During his time at UT, Travis received a strong musical foundation in Jazz and Classical percussion as well as exposure to music and culture from the Caribbean Islands, South America, Northern India, and West Africa. He furthered these studies while away from school last summer when he traveled to New York City to study with acclaimed drummer Henry Cole. In 2013, Travis was one of two recipients of the Deans Award from the College of Communication and the Arts for his outstanding achievements in composition and performance. That same year, Travis received the Bernard Sanchez Scholarship, which awards students for excellence in musical performance. He is currently endorsed by Bosphorus Cymbals, based in Istanbul, Turkey.