Jazz Trumpeter Benny Benack III will be joined by pianist Emmet Cohen and bassist Russell Hall in an online performance for the Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society. (Photo courtesy Maria Traversa)

New York jazz trio support Nanaimo jazz students with online concert

Musicians Benny Benack III, Emmet Cohen and Russell Hall also held workshop with students

The Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society’s virtual concert series is continuing this month with another performance recorded from a musician’s home in New York City.

On April 17 vocalist and trumpeter Benny Benack III, pianist Emmet Cohen and bassist Russell Hall are presenting a set they filmed in Cohen’s abode.

“He’s basically converted his walk-up Harlem apartment into a soundstage in the past year and he has a beautiful grand piano in there and then has a really nice camera setup and took the time to figure out all the crazy streaming stuff,” Benack said.

The concert is a fundraiser for the FNJS, as the group was forced to cancel last year’s Jazz Affair event due to COVID-19. Previous shows in the series brought viewers into the New York residences of jazz musicians Ingrid Jensen and Geoffrey Keezer and Gillian Margot.

Benack said this is his first time performing for a Nanaimo audience, but added that the Harbour City is “definitely on the list when the world gets opened up again.” As someone who sings and plays trumpet, he said the performance will feature a bit of both.

“Guys like Emmet and myself, we’re really old souls in the way that we love to play familiar songs and standards, songs that our heroes have done,” he said. “So there’s always a fair amount of that and then we mix in some new original compositions as well.”

As part of the arrangement with the FNJS, the performers also participated in a live online workshop with local jazz students, which included performance and discussion. Benack said the students were motivated and there was a “wonderful vibe.”

“A lot of the time with those master classes … you’d talk about harmony and talk about chords the whole time and everybody kind of sits there silently like it’s a lecture,” he said. “But the students were so grateful to have us there and they just kept asking questions and questions and before we knew it the hour was up.”

Benack said the best way to learn jazz is by listening and quoted renowned American jazz trumpeter Clark Terry’s saying: “Imitate, assimilate and innovate.”

“The first step is listening to other performances and really trying to mimic them and parrot them and then you assimilate that into your own sound,” he said. “And then after that, when you talk about finding your own sound, that’s where you find something unique to say.”

WHAT’S ON … Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society virtual concert featuring Benny Benack III, Emmet Cohen and Russell Hall takes place on Facebook and Youtube on April 17 at 7 p.m. Donations can be made via PayPal or Ko-Fi.

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