Tag Archives: Daniel Bennett Group

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:

Daniel Bennett Group – Sinking Houseboat Confusion

Album Cover- SINKING HOUSEBOAT CONFUSION (Daniel Bennett Group)

Well, another year has come and with it a new album from the Daniel Bennett Group. I’m watching the group’s activities since I did the review of the 2015 album “The Mystery at Clown Castle”.
The group was touring a lot during the last year and their setup is quite unique with Daniel Bennett typically on alto saxophone (but also on flute, clarinet and oboe), Nat Janoff on guitar and Matthew Feick on drums.
“I have always been obsessed with the idea of playing in *very* small-sized bands. I think it forces the musicians to give 110% to the music. It also encourages us to play and utilize many instruments and sounds. “, Daniel explained.

On the album the trio is supported by Eddy Khaimovich on bass (as on the last album).

The album has 10 songs and a total playtime of 36 minutes, so this is not a typical jazz album. But the band sees itself not as a typical jazz band, they describe their style as “quirky modern Jazz, fused with elements of Surf Rock and Avant-Pop”.

There are definitely some nice little pop songs on the CD, like the first tune “John Lizard Comes Home” or the title song of the CD “Sinking Houseboat Confusion” and my personal favorite “Animals Discussing Life Changes”.  These songs have a catchy melody and they tell us a little story like a good pop song should do.

But the Daniel Bennett group does not stop here, the CD is again a rather individual mix of styles, sounds and techniques.

Take “Little Disappointments of Modern Life” which is a contemporary piece of art where Daniel Bennett accompanies Michele Herman presenting her poem,
or “Bobby Brick Sent Me”, a hypnotic saxophone improvises over a steady guitar and drums rhythm.

Or listen to the “Sinking Houseboat Confusion (Acoustic Reprise)” with Mark Cocheo on guitar. The song starts with a long and  atmospheric dialog between guitar and alto saxophone and turns into a nice groovy acoustic version of the title song. This second part is another highlight for me on the CD.

The album is not officially released until June 25th but there are two videos where you can already hear two of the songs:

Behind the Scenes: Sinking Houseboat Confusion
(to listen to “John Lizard Comes Home”)

Official Music Video: Sinking Houseboat Confusion
(you hear “Sinking Houseboat Confusion”)

Stay tuned on the Daniel Bennett Group and if you’re able to listen to the whole CD (hopefully in two weeks) then Daniel’s promise is: “This music will shock some and hopefully delight ALL!”

Yes, Daniel, I was delighted. To use Michele Herman’s words:
I “…pound you on the back: Good job, good job”.