Voted by 2020 Downbeat Critics Poll Rising star Alto Saxophonist and Up and Coming Artist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, Charismatic and dynamic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin fuses traditional conceptions of Jazz, HipHop, & Soul. Her electric presence and fiery sax work has shared stages with several legendary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, & The Roots. A streetwise New York City native born and raised in Washington Heights, Lakecia first picked up the saxophone at Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. From there she joined the renowned jazz program at New York’s New School University. However, even at that early stage, she was already playing with renowned jazz figures like Clark Terry & Reggie Workman, which introduced her to opportunities to play and tour with an array of artists such as Rashied Ali, Christian Mcbride, Gregory Porter & James “Blood” Ulmer. With her deep jazz roots, she was soon in demand as an arranger and horn section leader, landing stints with such acclaimed artists as Anita Baker. Lakecia’s album ‘Pursuance’ is an intergenerational masterpiece that takes one on a journey through the lineage of the music with the works of John and Alice Coltrane. Benjamin pays homage to those who have come before by featuring innovative bandleaders of her generation, such as, Reggie Workman (Coproducer and playing ), Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Dee Dee Bridegwater, Meshell Ndegecello, Regina Carter, Bertha Hope, Last Poets, Greg Osby, Steve Wilson, John Benitez, Marc Cary, Marcus Gilmore, Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland, Brandee Younger, Georgia Anne Muldrow, & Jazzmeia Horn. ‘Phoenix‘, her fourth and latest studio album, dropped on January 27, 2023 via Whirlwind Recordings. The far-reaching new album finds the tour-de-force saxophonist in a poised & profoundly individual position alongside an all-star cast of musicians. The album was produced by the multi-Grammy-award winning Terri Lyne Carrington and features a star-studded line up of specially curated guests Dianne Reeves, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis & Wayne Shorter (R.I.P.). The band is composed of trumpeter Josh Evans, Victor Gould on keys, Orange Rodriguez on synths, drummer Enoch (EJ) Strickland, percussionist Nêgah Santos & bassist Ivan Taylor. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr, Rhodes organist Anastassiya Petrova & bassist Jahmal Nichols all join for one track each.
I had the complete honor of chatting it up a little bit with one of my favorite new artists doing that thanG that makes me see it as much as I feel it. We are once again really lucky to have such amazing artists come spend a little time with us, this time as part of the 2023 Madison Jazz Festival on June 17th at Shannon Hall in the Wisconsin Union. Lakecia and I talk quick about her great grandpa and his 100th birthday and his belief in her (and her first sax). We dive into a little bit of what this event could feel and sound like for event goers. We got into possibly one of her most ‘rebirth’ moments and talked a nit about her car accident and how the tragic part of life was something that united her with the trials of others. We seed to flower ‘Phoenix’, and dissect a track or two, she gives major props to her producer, the legendary Terri Lynn Carrington, on how she worked and reeled Lakecia back in. We talk about Mr. Wayne Shorter‘s voice addition to ‘Supernova’ and how that went down is a cool tale for sure. The cool thing about when Lakecia made her setlist for the listeners, even after we sorta closed out our conversation, she was still thinking about how to build the best set for listeners and added one more (I swear she’s reading my sets/mind). This!!