Music from an older generation: Clarinetist brings music of Benny Goodman to Reno

While fellow high schoolers rocked out to the sounds of 'N Sync, Christina Aguilera and Creed in the early 2000s, Dave Bennett was swingin with Benny Goodman.

"It was probably the polar opposite (of what my friends listened too)," Bennett said in a recent phone interview from his home in Waterford, Mich. "I always loved all types of music. They dug it when I used to play at school. I play guitar, piano. I would play Elvis, Beatles tunes.

"Playing the clarinet is my favorite thing and I think the music itself is what gave me my innate passion for it."

Bennett brings his passion for clarinet, swing and Goodman to Nevada at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Pioneer Center in Reno. He and his six-piece band present "Dave Bennett does Benny Goodman," fronting the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra with Laura Jackson conducting.

"I'm looking forward to this a lot. I've never been there (Reno) but always heard about it," Bennett said.

His septet includes Paul Keller (bass), Peter Siers (drums), Tad Weed (piano), Carol McCartney (vocals), and Hugh Leal (rhythm guitar).

"It's a lot of fun, we have a great time with that show," he said.

Bennett premiered his Tribute to Benny Goodman show in November 2003 at Windsor's Capitol Theatre, bringing to life the classic sound and music of the famed clarinetist and "King of Swing" who lived from 1909-1986.

The concert resulted in his first feature CD of Goodman material, released on PKO Records. Since 2005, Bennett has been touring for symphony "pops" shows, including the orchestras of Nashville, Omaha, Rochester, San Antonio, Vancouver, Grand Rapids, Tacoma, Sarasota, Columbus, Orlando, Toronto and others. He has been featured on NPR programs, The Jim Cullum Jazz Band and Riverwalk Jazz.

A musical prodigy, Bennett was born in May 1984 and began playing at age 10 on a clarinet given to him by his grandparents. He taught himself how to play Benny Goodman songs by ear, listening to a tape given to him by his grandfather. At age 12, Bennett was invited to the bandstand of the famous Sweet Basil Jazz Club in New York to sit in with trumpet great Doc Cheatham.

Two years later, Bennett traveled with The New Reformation Band and Wally's Warehouse Waifs and, at age 17, was selected as one of two high school students to perform as a special guest soloist with The Count Basie Orchestra.

While swing may be Bennett's bread-and-butter, his prowess and passions extend to an eclectic musical mix that includes rockabilly, pop, country and American roots music. He can rock on guitar or boogie woogie on piano when the chance arises. In other shows he performs with the Dave Bennett Quartet and branches out, playing and singing Elvis, Roy Orbison, Chris Isaak and Brian Setzer.

"I think my favorite period of time is the '50s," he said. "I love early rock n roll, Jerry lee (Lewis) and other groups, playing piano. I'm kind of lost in that decade."

Bennett also writes his own music, with a world of musical influences coming together in his personal mix.

"I'm in a period of finding my own voice, playing other styles of music and finding my own style," he said, "playing (Benny Goodman) music and putting my own voice to it. It's a soulful type of music and that really hits me. I'm doing more and more song writing, most of the stuff that I've written is vocals, not too much yet for the horn."

But for Reno, Bennett will swing with what he knows best.

"I think that everybody's going to enjoy the show, It's a lighthearted show. I interact with the audience. There's an easy-going atmosphere, a laugh here and there. It generally gets the people rockin'.

"I have a great band, wonderful guys who really get cranked up playing a tune. I'm thankful for being able to do what I do."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment