BMan’s Blues Report
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release (October 4, 2021), The Joy of Playing, from the Benjamin Schnake Ensemble and it’s really cool. Opening with Marisol, a hot, South American style jazz number featuring multi instrumentalist, composer and arranger, Benjamin Schnake on nylon string guitar. Joined by Dave Pietro on alto sax, Tim Stuven on tenor sax, John Blevins on trumpet, Eric Quinn on trombone, Jennifer Wharton on bass, Santiago on piano, Gui Duvignau on bass and Paul Shaw, this track is an excellent opener. There is no denying the Latin influence on this release, it’s band leader being born in Santiego de Chile where he started playing guitar at 10. With a lighter touch, Fragment, features beautiful piano work by Santiego Leibson with Schnake on nylon string guitar Sunhyun Yoo on alto sax and Paul Shaw on drums. Beautiful. She’s Gone is a bit more quiet yet features a stunning trombone solo by Eric Quinn and complimentary sax solo by Dave Pietro. Aju features Schnake on electric guitar and his contemporary Latin styling comparable to contemporary player Al DiMeola. Leibson again takes a commanding piano solo and Gui Duvignau and Paul Shaw each present short solos of their own. Very nice. Mingus’ Goodbye Porkpie Hat really gives the Ensemble a terrific opportunity to improvise over a true standard. Leibson shines on piano and the horns are arranged in an unconventional yet extremely interesting way. Wrapping the release is Lakitas, is inspired by the Andean musical tradition of Lakitas. This traditional folk basis is expanded and improvised into a modern jazz beauty. Featuring Schnake on mandolin, Ammon Swinbank on flute, Leibson on piano and Shaw on drums, this is a beautiful closer for a terrific release.