Take Five With Sylvia Bennett

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Sylvia Bennett : People have tried to compare Sylvia Bennett's voice to other great singers of the past and present. But perhaps late great jazz legend Lionel Hampton described Sylvia best when he said, "Man, the lady can sing! Her magic gets to the ears and hearts of the audience. Sylvia is truly an original!"

Giant of the jazz world and king of the vibraphone, Lionel Hampton, and the silken-voiced songstress, Sylvia Bennett, have made some wonderful magic together. Sylvia became the first woman to record with Hampton in thirty years. Their album Sentimental Journey on Atlantic Records was a Grammy finalist in 1987. The lady and the legend toured together and even became known as presidential favorites having performed together at the inaugurations of Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan. Bennett has released several solo albums including her new release of songs by Lionel Hampton entitled There Will Never Be Another You.

Instrument(s): vocals.

Teachers and/or influences? Friend and mentor the late Lionel Hampton - he taught me how to sing from the heart.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... When I first sang at three years old and was a regular on The Children's Hour, a children's variety show in Philadelphia, by the time I was ten. I started singing professionally in 1976 after moving to Miami.

Your sound and approach to music: I feel I am a very versatile artist. From jazz to big band to pop, I love to sing and can do so in several languages (French, Spanish, Italian and English).

Your dream band: Barry Manilow and his orchestra.

Anecdote from the road: I have had the pleasure of singing at two presidential inaugurations: Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Favorite venue: I took my own band and sang in Holland during their lobster festival. Everything was just perfect and the people were so welcoming.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? There Will Never Be Another You, my most recent CD. It is my tribute to Lionel Hampton and contains never before released material we recorded together before he died, along with a companion DVD containing my most cherished video moments on the road with him.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I love to perform in front of a live audience. Music just makes people happy. Jazz is truly an American-made sound and people from eighteen to eighty can relate. I believe, as many others do, that jazz laid the foundation for rock, pop, R&B and hip hop. I am very passionate about keeping classic jazz alive, which is why I intend to perform at as many colleges and universities as I can.

Did you know... I was born in Italy and became a U.S. citizen when I was twelve.

CDs you are listening to now: Tony Bennett - An American Classic; Frank Sinatra - Duets (Capitol, 1993); Celine Dion - anything!

Desert Island picks: Barbara Streisand - The Broadway Album (Columbia, 1985); Michel Legrand - I Love Paris (Columbia, 1954); Lionel Hampton - Sentimental Journey (Atlantic, 1985).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Timeless - now more than ever. The only real music with staying power that everyone can relate to.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Discovery of new artists. More distribution labels willing to work with small independents.

What is in the near future? My new one-woman show titled The Lady and The Legend is based on my latest CD/DVD, There Will Never Be Another You, my tribute to Lionel Hampton. Through the magic of music technology, Lionel can once again take the stage with me. I will also continue to focus on keeping jazz alive for the "younger set."

By Day: Sitting with my producer coming up with my next album. Spending time with my voice teacher.

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