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Daniel Bennett: Saxophone Man


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Daniel Bennett grew up in Rochester, New York and is now based in New York. The fourth and latest album from The Daniel Bennett Group, Clockhead Goes To Camp has had positive reviews and is a resounding success. The group are busy playing all through the festive season with many gigs in libraries and small venues across the US.

Though he concentrates mainly on saxophone, Daniel also plays a range of instruments including flute, oboe and clarinet. However, in spite of being a shy kid, he was also tenacious. If he had not been , he may have ended up as a trumpet player. "When I was ten years old," he explains, "my sister took me to the high school jazz band Christmas concert. I'll never forget it. I heard the jazz band play a rendition of "The Pink Panther." Chris Oldfield was a high school saxophonist in the band. He was my first musical hero. I took some lessons with Chris. I was a very shy kid, but I had two older sisters who looked out for me, that always helps! I joined the school band a few months later. The elementary band director thought my lips were not suited for the saxophone. She recommended that I play the trumpet. It was a pretty funny experience. The director asked me to fill out a form and list my top three musical instrument choices. I wrote 'saxophone' as each of my choices. They had no choice but to let me play saxophone!"

Bennett practiced his saxophone, playing wherever and whenever he could. "As a child," he says "I played the saxophone every waking hour. I used to practice in my closet late at night. I played in the public school wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, and much more. I learned to play clarinet and flute so I could play in various pit orchestras as well. I taught myself guitar in high school and played in a dozen different rock bands around town. I also played saxophone in church three days a week. As a teenager, I was really hungry to play. I used to play at the bus stop and on street corners. One time I drove to a local shopping mall with a friend of mine who also happened to be an incredible drummer. We set up our gear and spontaneously played music for the shoppers. People loved it! We played for about 30 minutes before we got kicked out of the mall. I was a pretty gutsy teenager. I played music for people in homeless shelters, rehab facilities, and even played a few concerts at a local psychiatric center. As a teenager I also played music at Rochester music venues like the Lilac Festival and Darien Lake Theme Park."

Now living in an apartment, Bennett has neighbors to consider as well as his new daughter but he is keen to get his music to as many people as possible. He said, "I'm blessed when people remember the melodies of my songs. I think people catch on to the simple melodies of songs like "Paint the Fence," "Bear Cub," "The Old Muskrat Welcomes Us," and "Nine Piglets." People smile when they listen to our music. Our songs are accessible and honest."

Daniel's taste in music is not restricted to any one genre. "I love the music of the Smiths, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Electric, Ornette Coleman, Keith Green, Foster the People, Paul Desmond, Lee Konitz, Steve Reich, and Bela Fleck." He says, " The list goes on and on. I love any song with a great melody. I am equally influenced by Steve Reich's "New York Counterpoint," Ornette Coleman's "Skies of America," and the Smiths "There is a Light That Never Goes Out." All are masterpieces. I grew up playing in the church, so I love hymns like "It is Well with My Soul" and "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I see no boundary line between any genre of music. I transcribe Paul Desmond saxophone solos every week. I just transcribed his solo on "Out of Nowhere." Some of his lines could have been pulled from a Bach invention. No joke."

Bennett has a deep and abiding faith and he sees music as part of this. Of his philosophy on life he comments that he is out to, "Worship God and serve the people."

When he plays, Bennett is very aware of his audience and their reactions as well as other musicians on stage. He explains, "The Daniel Bennett Group has been performing constantly for the last ten years. We have had a lot of time to build our audience. I formed the band when I was a graduate student at the New England Conservatory in Boston. We have great fans all over the place. I think I feel the most at home in New York City and Boston. But we have had great success in many parts of the country. The Daniel Bennett Group plays every month at Tomi Jazz in midtown Manhattan and we were the house band at the Liberty Hotel in Boston for five years. We also have the unusual distinction of having played at 18 public libraries in four different states during the last year or so. There are actually quite a few public libraries that have the funding to host concerts and cultural events. We played our Connecticut CD release concert to an audience of 200 people at the Hartford Library last year. Daniel Bennett Group has also crossed over into the musical theater world. I recently composed and performed the score for the stage adaptation of 'Frankenstein' at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Manhattan. We are comfortable playing at rock clubs in the east village and also more mainstream jazz clubs and festivals. "

When he plays, Daniel says, "I'm floating on a cloud when I play music. Hopefully my audience is on that cloud with me! I only write music that entertains my audience. Entertainment is not a bad word. I don't play music to enlighten or educate anyone. That's a very egotistical posture for an artist to maintain. First and foremost, I am a servant to my audience."

AS for the future, Daniel will continue with his group and to develop his music in as many different ways as possible. Daniel says, "Daniel Bennett Group just released our fourth album Clockhead Goes to Camp on the Manhattan Daylight Media label. The disc features Mark Cocheo on guitar, Peter Brendler on bass, and Tyson Stubelek on drums. I'm thrilled that the album is selling really well. We recently played a sold-out CD release concert at the Metropolitan Room in Manhattan. Our next album is out in 2014. As for other goals, I would like to compose more music for theater. In the stage adaptation of Frankenstein at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Manhattan I played clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, and oboe."

Daniel has other interests outside music and collects baseball cards and vintage toys. "I collect vintage baseball cards and toys"he says, "I have 80,000 baseball cards in my apartment in Manhattan. I also have 500 vintage GI Joe and Star Wars figures in my closet."

He feels music and politics have no place together and comments, "My music is accepted and appreciated in the United States. That's all I care about. I don't care about the state of jazz. I don't follow jazz politics in any way, shape or form. Our albums are selling well and our audiences continue to smile! My philosophy is to always lift up and support fellow artists. The Daniel Bennett Group often features guest artists from all genres to share the concert billing with us. We have recently played double-bill performances with Bill Frisell, Charlie Hunter Trio, Steve Kuhn, Greg Osby Duo, James Carter Organ Trio, Joy Electric, and Billy Martin. We also have performed with renowned poets like Britt Melewski and Fulbright scholar and poet, Rimas Uzgiris. This collaborative spirit is what keeps the music vibrant every day. It's exciting!"

So, the future is looking good for Daniel Bennett and his group. Daniel remains uninterested in any political movement associated with music. His belief in his music and God remain strong and as long as audiences enjoy his playing, Daniel and The Daniel Bennett Group will continue to explore their music and play.


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