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Daniel Bennett: Saxophone Man

Sammy Stein By

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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."

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