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Benny Benack III: One of a Kind

Troy Dostert By

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Although he's got fine chops as a trumpeter, Benny Benack III also has serious ambition as a vocalist, as demonstrated on his first record as a leader, One of a Kind. It takes a good deal of self-confidence to pull off such a feat, and to his credit Benack does an admirable job of it. When one also considers his skills as a composer and arranger, it's clear that Benack is a strong musical presence more than capable of continuing the legacy established by his grandfather and father, Benny Sr. and Benny Jr., both of whom first made their mark in the Pittsburgh jazz scene.

While Benack doesn't sing on all the tracks, the album does give him plenty of opportunities to showcase his vocal talents. Tunes like the title track and "I Found You" reveal Benack's debt to the crooner tradition as embodied by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Benack's insouciant, carefree spirit is perfect for these light-on-their-feet numbers, and with excellent support from his rhythm team (Emmet Cohen on piano, Alex Claffy on bass and Ulysses Owens, Jr. on drums) Benack breathes a fun-loving air into them. Ballads like "Looking for Love" and the Jobim-flavored "Kiss Me Slowly," while possessing well-conceived melodies, aren't quite as effective, as Benack's occasional lack of command is more noticeable in the slower tempos. But even so, Benack is a more-than-respectable vocalist who injects a lot of life into his own and others' compositions, as is evident on the album's covers, with creative renditions of "I Only Have Eyes for You" and the Carpenters' "Close to You" also providing a glimpse of Benack's noteworthy arranging skills.

On other cuts, Benack is content to let his trumpet do the heavy lifting, and it's all to the good, as he's arguably an even better horn player than vocalist. The straight-ahead burner "You Already Know" gives Benack and saxophonist Joel Frahm abundant space for their spirited solos, while "Jumpstart" contains hard-bop energy to spare, as Benack's trumpet bursts and nimble runs are infectious. Although the stylistic breadth of the record occasionally becomes a bit jarring, as the bop-based cuts generate a very different kind of mood than the lighter vocal tracks, one definitely gets a sense of the range of Benack's musical inspirations and his ability to bring them to life with panache. For traditional-minded jazz fans in particular, Benack's got a lot to offer.

Track Listing: One of a Kind; Kiss Me Slowly; I Found You; You Already Know; Looking for Love; Jumpstart; When Midnight Comes; Close to You; I Only Have Eyes for You; Londontowne; Guh Guh Guh; Benny’s From Heaven.

Personnel: Benny Benack III: trumpet, vocals; Emmet Cohen: piano; Alex Claffy: bass; Ulysses Owens, Jr.: drums; Joel Frahm: tenor and soprano sax; Yotam Silberstein: guitar.

Title: One of a Kind | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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