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Album Review: “Mr. Bennett’s Mind” – Daniel Bennett Group. Words: Sammy Stein

Mr. Bennett's Mind - Photo by Alexa Drew.jpg


‘Mr Bennett’s Mind’ (Manhattan Daylight Media, 2024) is the 10th studio release from the Daniel Bennett Group. Having reviewed several of their releases, this is a musical progression in the fullest of senses.

The album was recorded at the iconic Big Orange Sheep Studio in Brooklyn, New York, and produced by Grammy-nominated producer MP Kuo. Bennett plays alto saxophone, flute, clarinet, keyboard, and guitar. Pianist Jason Yeager, electric bassist Kevin Hailey, and percussionist Koko Bermejo join the New York bandleader
Bennett says, “My melodies come from the heart. My mission is to worship God and deliver joy to the people!” 

Daniel Bennett Group was recently voted ‘Best New Jazz’ in NYC Hot House Magazine. He is a touring clinician and associate director of the New York Jazz Academy. “I share my music with young musicians across the world,” said Bennett who refuses to describe his music, saying, “My audience can interpret freely.” 

‘Turn Clockwise and Push’ opens the album with simple-sounding melodies over a continuum of accompaniment and looping theme with different instruments emerging to the fore at different times, a joyful tinkling piano solo from Yaeger being a highlight. Each phrase has a new key signature – something not immediately obvious but little twists like this are what Bennet enjoys – and the effect is entrancing and not so simple. The same ideas are used on ‘The County Clerk’ which is a brooding, dark-tinged waltz – or is it? Minor triads accompany a nostalgic folk melody delivered by Bennet across the top.

‘Talk To Your Panda’ is gentle, conversational, and feels like a comfortable stroll with a friend as the music meanders along familiar pathways, interspersed by a few surprises and high points, with Bennet’s rapid traversing of the scales making for a few open-mouthed interludes. The bass, at one point, finds itself accompanying a piano line, which veers off-key delightfully before returning to the theme, which Bennet imparts – with changes hidden within – relentlessly.

‘Bank Robbers’ has all the Bennet hallmarks of an essence of a theme over the harmonic arrangement and a glorious second half where the harmonics work themselves into a frenzy before the theme returns, with Bennet on flute. The listener imbibing the music may feel these particular bank robbers might just be the Robin Hoods of the music arena, giving away anything they had taken. 

‘Variations on A Floating Theme’ is a beautiful number with delicate harmonics and a rising intonation that gives a sense of something coming, maybe just around the river-bend. When it does, the momentum changes with a gorgeous exchange of patterns and tone modes between piano and sax before the tune again returns to gentleness and the rolling sensation of a river journey.

‘Jupiter’ is the group’s homage to Holst, and they give it a light treatment, Bennet’s flute following the familiar tune with variations, while the band provides stalwart accompaniment. ‘Bending Bobby Brick’ is a track of diversity, from wavering keys to a streetwise vibe and cocky gamboling gait. Bennet’s playing takes on a bluesier, freer feel that suits his style.

‘Three Studies on Emotion’ is beautiful, from the clashing contrapuntal chords at the start, the emerging voice of the sax, which is countered by the piano, and the energy of the middle section to the final harmonies that eventually prevail. The standout track on the album, in my opinion. 

With this album, finally, and irrevocably, the publicity blurb about Mr. Bennet being ‘one of the most original and unpredictable musical voices of his generation’ is proven. Bennet can do more than musical tricks and nuances. He can change the atmosphere in two notes, he can work the harmonics for effect, and boy, he can play. Backed by a wonderful line-up, Mr Bennet’s mind has surely found the musical place it can, for the moment at least, call home. And what of Mr Bennet’s mind? Well, a lot is going on and there is more to come. 

DANIEL BENNETT GROUP 

MR. BENNETT’S MIND (Manhattan Daylight Media 2024)

Recorded at Big Orange Sheep (NYC) & 2nd Story Sound (NYC) 

Mixed & mastered at MPK Studio | Produced by MP Kuo 

Daniel Bennett – Alto Sax, Flute, Clarinet, Guitar, Keyboard

Jason Yeager – Piano 

Kevin Hailey – Electric Bass

Koko Bermejo – Drums 

  

 

 

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