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Daniel Bennett: The Bear Truth

Ludwig vanTrikt By

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Tyson Stubelek is one of the top drummers around, and a master at playing an array of styles with a seamless fluidity. And Peter Brendler has become one of my favorite bassists. He has a beautiful tone and an impeccable sense of time. I also have a rotating cast of New York players for my live band, some world-class musicians, like drummer Brian Adler, pianist Jason Yeager, and bassist Mark Lau. The list goes on and on!

AAJ: Are you at a point in your career where you are just playing music without having to work a day job?

DB: I am playing music full time now. I split my time between bandleader gigs and sideman dates.

AAJ: Give us a glimpse into the life of a young working musician. What is your typical day like in terms of the musical and non musical things—without being too invasive—things which you do on a given day. What kind of practice regimen do you have and what materials (i.e. books, scores etc.) do you use? What kinds of musical challenges are you dealing with?

DB: My typical day is pretty intense. I wake up around 7:30am. I always try to start the day with prayer and some quiet time—before the chaos begins! Mornings are spent practicing and networking online. I generally try to practice at least three hours a day. I have musical theater woodwind books to practice.

I recently completed an off-Broadway show called Crab House. I perform frequently with Theater for the New City, Westchester Sandbox Theatre, In the Wings Productions, and many other NYC theater companies. In addition, I am always practicing new classical material that comes my way.

I recently had a big classical performance at Irvine Auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania, playing with the amazing classical pianist, Graeme Burgan. We played 20th century works by composers like Paul Creston and others, and some Rachmaninoff transcriptions. I am in the process of writing new music for my band, and I have been learning some new tunes by ear and transcribing some Paul Desmond solos. One of my biggest struggles as a performer is being able to switch fluidly between the jazz and classical realm. You really have to train yourself to sound authentic in both worlds. And at the same time, you have to be able to craft your own personal sound. It's a never-ending struggle!

The gig schedule is very busy. I am in Boston every Wednesday night to play at the Liberty Hotel, and perform quite regularly at venues throughout Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. The Daniel Bennett Group performs regularly at Tomi Jazz Club right here in Manhattan. I also teach private saxophone lessons at the New York Jazz Academy, a really high-powered music school based right here in New York City and run by saxophonist Javier Arau. I really enjoy teaching there and being able to work with all of the amazing musicians that come through.

AAJ: Measuring your own career thus far and using it as a yard stick; what advice would you give to a young jazz artist just looking to embark on both New York City and a career in jazz?

Daniel Bennett Group—We Are Not DefeatedDB: Honesty and integrity are crucial in this business. As a bandleader, you have to ensure for each venue that you can bring an audience and that you will sound your best. You also have to assure your musicians that they will be paid and well fed! There is a lot of pressure on the bandleader to make good things happen. Be strong and never let them see you sweat!

I would also encourage musicians to get familiar with the music business from all sides. I was actually the booking agent at three jazz venues when I lived in Boston—Om Restaurant, The Fireplace, and the Stork Club. I did this at the time because I wanted to help grow the jazz scene in a positive way. It also allowed me to book my own band quite regularly.

While doing this, I also witnessed some of the awful business practices of certain jazz groups. There were bands that felt they deserved lots of money and perks, yet they steadfastly refused to advertise and share some of the workload. Now, I am a full time musician, so I understand that musicians must be paid well. However, you have to earn your status through touring, recording, and generating your own audience. I'm a capitalist. You have to earn your keep. You can't just step out of music school and start demanding top dollar. Venues don't really care if you won some award at some silly jazz competition in college.

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