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Daniel Bennett Group: We Are The Orchestra

We Are the Orchestra - Album Cover (Photo by Pooja Rudra)

More than two years have passed since I presented an album of the Daniel Bennett Group. The group comes back this September not with mysteries or confusion but with pure music. “We Are The Orchestra” is the name of the latest album that has been released on September 7.

Daniel Bennett prefers to play in small ensembles, he goes on tour only with drums and guitar. For this album he reduced the number of musicians down to two.  He and Mark Cocheo recorded all of the wind, string and percussion instruments with the goal to create the sound of a large ensemble.

The line-up looks as follows:

  • Daniel Bennett: Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet, Oboe, Piano, Percussion
  • Mark Cocheo: Electric Guitar, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Nylon-String Guitar

The collaboration between these two musicians started when Bennett arranged the musical score for “Whitman at the Whitney” at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The show featured Daniel Bennett on saxophone and Mark Cocheo on banjo playing famous opera excerpts from the 19th and 20th century.

The official promotion video explains that in detail:

The album contains eight songs with a total playtime of 29 minutes and features six originals by Daniel Bennett and two opera themes by 19th century composer Giuseppe Verdi.

The album starts with the song “Loose Fitting Spare Tire”, a typical Daniel Bennett composition that modulates heavily. The banjo and the western guitar define the folk sound of this tune. Solo instruments are an electric guitar and saxophone.

“I’m Not Nancy” follows this pattern, a catchy melody based on harmonies with multiple tonal centers. Flute and banjo are the solo instruments and the band sounds this time like a bluegrass combo.

The third song “Gold Star Mufflers” is another Daniel Bennett-original. The piano background gives this song it’s character and the minor chords moving in major thirds create that special “mystery” sound of this song.

The album continues with the “Theme From Ernani”, the first opera theme on this album. The pulse of the song comes from the banjo rhythm, Mark Cocheo plays a great guitar solo (I guess on his telecaster), the flute adds nice fills and someone had fun with the percussions especially with the vibra-slap.

We come to my personal favorite on the album. It’s a composition by Daniel Bennett again and is called “Refinancing For Elephants”. This song has a beautiful contemplative feeling, with the clarinet and the piccolo playing the melody and guitar and tambourin laying the background.

“Inside Our Pizza Oven” goes all the way to Marrakech, a song that reminds me of the atmosphere of the ‘Djemaa el Fna’-marketplace. Daniel plays the oboe and percussion and Mark adds a strumming guitar.

The next tune is the second composition by Guiseppe Verdi on the album. This title is called “Theme From Il Trovatore” and the Daniel Bennett Group interprets this waltz straight even a little bit cheesy, especially when two saxophones play the melody together at 1:30, but it fits perfectly for this song.

The album closes with “Carl Finds His Way”, again a typical Daniel Bennett-composition with moving tonal centers. Mark plays his guitar solo with a distortion effect, so this songs sounds much more like a pop song. Mark and Daniel again have a chance to show their virtuosity and the song ends with a dialog between guitar and saxophone.

The album is quite an eclectic collection of musical elements from folk, classic and jazz music and shows the versatility and the mastery of these two musicians. They have been able to create a full and well-balanced  sound. The Daniel Bennett Group has clearly found it’s style and the success of their unique musical approach proves them right.

More information about the Daniel Bennett Group can be found on their website:
https://danielbennettgroup.com

And finally a playlist on Spotify:

Olivia Foschi: Fleeting Windows

12725629-fleeting-windows

A brand new album comes from vocalist, composer and educator Olivia Foschi. It is titled “Fleeting Windows” and the main inspiration of this album comes from her twin boys who were born in 2015. Olivia Foschi was born in San Francisco, grew up in Italy and lives in New York. The excellent line-up of this album features

  • Olivia Foschi – voice
  • Gil Goldstein – accordion/piano/Rhodes
  • Billy Test – piano/Rhodes
  • Alex Sipiagin – trumpet/flugelhorn
  • Daniel Dickinson – bass clarinet/flute/tenor sax/alto sax
  • Joseph Doubleday – vibraphone
  • Yotam Silberstein – guitar
  • Marco Panascia – bass
  • Ulysses Owens Jr. – drums/percussion

The album was produced by Ulysses Owens Jr. and the official release date was August 24, 2018.

Olivia says that “I wanted to make a record dedicated to my sons that would somehow capture the myriad of emotions we went through in these past few years”. The songs were either written for them, inspired by them, or integral tunes within their daily routine.

The album starts with an original from Olivia called “Due To Wake Up Soon”.  The song has a nice steady pulse but also a lot of space for the soloists and captures that feeling of easiness in the morning before the daily routine starts.

The second tune “Stay As Sweet As You Are” is the first highlight of the album. Gil Goldstein arranged it in musette-style and Olivia sings this old song with her clean and clear voice fresher than ever.

The album continues with “Firefly”, composed by Kenny Barron and the late Chris White Jr. Olivia included this song in her repertoire after  performing it with Chris and the John Ehlis Ensemble. We hear great solos by Alex Sipiagin and Yotam Silberstein. Alex Sipiagin arranged this song in in 7/4 that goes back to 4/4 on the bridge which opened the song rhythmically for Olivia to add some Konnakol (art of performing percussion syllables vocally in South Indian Carnatic music).

“Dreams Come True” is another original by Olivia Foschi, the beautiful arrangement is by Gil Goldstein. A breezy song that modulates between major and minor keys.

“Dienda”, the 5th song on the album is a composition by Kenny Kirkland, known from Branford Marsalis or Sting.  This song was included as Olivia’s farewell to Brooklyn. She said: “Sting’s lyrics to “Dienda” reminded me of my decision to leave Brooklyn for a more rural environment as I entered this new ‘season’ in my life as a mother.” In balladesque style, this is one of the softest songs on the album.

The next tune “Pitter Patter” is another favorite of mine. You can here a mother talking to her boys who seem to have too much energy, I really like that catchy phrase “Pitter-patter, what’s the matter, please, don’t fight”.  The song gets more open during the solos. This is one of the nice characteristics of this album: catchy melodic phrases alternate with open and very dynamic solo parts.

“Quiet Now” comes next and Olivia explains: “We listen to a lot of Bill Evans in our home, especially when the going gets rough, and his take on Zeitlin’s “Quiet Now” instantly gives me space to breathe within all the chaos. Gil randomly offered to arrange it for the record, so I penned lyrics to it and all of a sudden it was on the track list.” Very tastefully sung and featuring Gil Goldstein and Alex Sipiagin as soloists. Just released and already a classic.

“Look for the Silver Lining” from Jerome Kern starts with Olivia tapping on the kitchen table while singing it to her boys. The song features Joseph Doubleday on vibraphone and an incredible Yotam Silberstein on guitar. The excellent and very rhythmic arrangement is by Billy Test.

The next song “Tiny Toes” is composed and arranged by Olivia Foschi, again very rhythmically, an up-tempo, be-bop style song. Very jazzy, featuring Ulysses Owens Jr. on drums.

“My Life” is the second song composed by Chris White Jr.  on this album. Olivia had once a hard time relating to the song and Chris walked her through the song’s underlying intention and phrasing and since then she understood its true meaning. We hear only piano, bass and Olivia singing beautifully.

“Looking Up”, the homage to New York by Michel Petrucciani, closes the album. This song is another highlight for me. The guitar determines the easy Latin-groove and the bass clarinet gives the song it’s special touch.

The eleven songs on the album have all been carefully arranged and show Olivia’s passion for great melodies, open space and rhythmic accentuation. Olivia has a clear and full voice, discreet and present, a real pleasure to listen. The album has also a distinct and unique atmosphere, it’s own spirit, like a total work of art.

There is also a nice video available with some more information about this album:

Here is  a link for cdbaby.com where you can order the CD:
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/oliviafoschi2

The album is also available on Spotify:

More information about Olivia Foschi can be found on her website:
https://www.oliviafoschi.com/

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