Posts Tagged ‘Michael Benedict’

LIVE: Michael Benedict & Bopitude Featuring Sharel Cassity @ the Daily Grind, 7/25/14

Monday, August 11th, 2014


Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks

I have a problem, which I share with many of my friends in the jazz world: I worry about young musicians that catch my eye. Having continued success in this genre is about as easy as walking a tightrope over a swimming pool filled with piranha (while you’re on fire), so when one of them disappears from my line of sight for an extended period, it’s hard not to think, “Well, the Bear got another one!” Happily, any fears I’ve had about altoist Sharel Cassity were squashed when she appeared with Greater Nippertown’s Sultans of Bop, Michael Benedict & Bopitude.

You may remember Cassity from her searing opening Sunday set at Jazz @ the Lake in 2010. She had recently released her debut recording Relentless, and some truly nasty musicians (including trombonist Michael Dease, who’s become a mini-industry all his own since then) helped Cassity blow away the crowd. But then – aside from a couple of guest shots on other people’s recordings – I lost sight of her. I shouldn’t have worried, though; nobody this good and this dedicated simply disappears. In addition to playing with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars and the all-female big band Diva, Cassity just released a set of standards called Manhattan Romance on the Japanese label Venus. While standards may not be Cassity’s primary focus – she’s an accomplished composer, with more new stuff waiting to be recorded – her latest recording made her a perfect fit for Bopitude’s unerring musical direction.

What’s more, Cassity’s appearance was more evidence of Benedict’s dedication to expanding the sound of his pet project: Just as bari-sax legend Gary Smulyan gave Bopitude undeniable resonance, Cassity’s alto brought a wonderfully different harmonic (and not a little sass) to the band’s killer front line as the group launched into the opener, “Monk’s Dream.” Cassity caught the opening solo, which went leaping and bounding around Troy’s Daily Grind. (Benedict grabbed the opportunity to play the unconventional space when the show’s original venue, Proctors, fell through.) Cassity gave a quick nod to Monk’s atonality before taking full, undeniable ownership of the house; she had range, chops and some fiendish ideas, and both tenorman Brian Patneaude and trumpeter Chris Pasin had to pump it up to keep up with her.



LIVE: The Bopitude Drum Battle @ The Egg, 2/1/14

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Yep. That's a lot of drums.

Yep. That’s a lot of drums.

Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

The Greater Nippertown area indeed has been blessed with a wealth of talented musicians. And a goodly number of them were certainly displayed on Saturday, February 1, when Michael Benedict hosted a quartet of guest drummer-percussionists backed by his band Bopitude in concert at The Egg in Albany.

Modeled after the famous jazz drum battles in the 1950s and ’60s at Birdland, the concert featured Mark Foster, Pete Sweeney and Bob Halek on trap drum kits, as well as percussionist Brian Melick.


Two New Concerts Announced for The Egg

Monday, December 2nd, 2013
Michael Benedict of Bopitude

Michael Benedict of Bopitude

Photograph by Rudy Lu

The Egg in Albany will be playing host to a pair of newly announced Local 518 concerts.

The Mendelssohn Club of Albany takes over the Hart Theatre stage at The Egg at 7:30pm on Friday, December 13 for their annual holiday concert, “Sing and Be Merry.” This year, they’ll be joined by special guests the Musicians of Ma’alwyck. Tickets are currently on sale for $18.

And while there’s been no official word yet from the folks at The Egg, Michael Benedict & Bopitude have announced that they’ll be hosting a Drum Battle Concert at The Egg on Saturday, February 1, similiar to the one they hosted at Van Dyck back in October. Five different powerhouse percussionists – Michael Benedict, Pete Sweeney, Bob Haleck, Mark Foster and Brian Melick – square off in pairs to fuel the big beat behind Bopitude, wrapping up the night with a drum-a-palooza five-way battle. Ticket prices and on-sale date TBA.

LIVE: Michael Benedict & Bopitude @ the Van Dyck, 3/30/13

Friday, April 5th, 2013
Michael Benedict & Bopitude @ the Van Dyck, 3/30/13 (photo by Rudy Lu)

Michael Benedict

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu
A JazzApril story

Given a choice, I’ll take new jazz over old jazz. To my mind, anything that moves the music forward should get all the love it can. But last Saturday night, I needed to get back to the basics, to the roots, and get a big juicy cleansing shot of the pure. For me, that’s hard bop, which added nice sharp teeth to a sub-genre that reflected this country’s energized post-World War II mentality. Thankfully, Michael Benedict & Bopitude are dedicated to not only showcasing this music, but also making it as electrifying as it was back in the day.

Besides my need to flush out the avant-garde rubbish that had clogged up my soul the night before, there were two other reasons for checking out Bopitude’s latest appearance. First, this group sounds big at festivals and concert halls; in a small venue like the Van Dyck’s upstairs concert space, they’re absolutely massive – and that was before they added the second reason for seeing this band: Baritone sax master Gary Smulyan, who’s got a sound that shakes whatever floor he’s standing on. Benedict’s sextet has a weapons-grade front line, and I had a front row seat. What’s more, when I came in off the street, people who’d attended the first set were buying tickets for the second set, so I knew this was going to be a sweet time.


LIVE: Michael Benedict & Bopitude @ A Place for Jazz, 10/26/12

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Drummer-bandleader Michael Benedict leads Bopitude – featuring baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan, trumpeter Chris Pasin, tenor saxophonist Brian Patneaude, pianist Bruce Barth and bassist Mike Lawrence – through Bobby Timmons’ classic “Moanin’” during their recent concert at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady’s Whisperdome.

A Place for Jazz presents its final concert of the year at the Whisperdome at 7:30pm tonight (Friday, November 9) featuring the red-hot Pedrito Martinez Group. Tix are $15; students $7; and children under 12 FREE if accompanied by an adult.

And at 7:30pm on Saturday (November 10), an expanded, 16-piece, big band variation of Bopitude – featuring special guest saxophonist Ralph Lalama and pianist Bruce Barth – plays the music of Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Bill Holman and Gary McFarland in concert at the Greenville High School Auditorium in Greenville. Tix are $15 and can be reserved by phoning 518.966.5070.

LIVE: “Jazz Mentors & New Voices” @ the Athens Cultural Center, 5/5/12 (Take Two)

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
(photo by Roberto Orozco)

(photo by Roberto Orozco)

NOTE: We are proud to partner with Planet Arts and students from the Germantown Central School District on the Open MIC (Music Industry Connections) Project, in which select students had the hands-on opportunity to document the “Jazz Mentors & New Voices” concert as part of Planet Arts’ Jazz one2one concert series and have their work published at

Review and photographs by Roberto Orozco
Additional photographs by Nora Cady and Josie Savarese

They say jazz is the music of wonder. It delivers the body, soul and mind to a place of new meaning, and that’s exactly what percussionist Michael Benedict, along with Adam Siegel (saxophone), Rhys Tivey (trumpet), Joe Finn (guitar) and Mike Lawrence (bass) displayed. Once Tivey’s trumpet pulse from “Lotus Blossom” began, everyone was in for a delightful evening. The rhythm was flawless and the beat so infectious that some of the audience members instantly began nodding their heads to the music, as if absorbed or hypnotized. Not only did the group provide some hip-swinging, finger-snapping, foot-tapping tracks, but as the show continued, the tunes kept getting better and better.

These five gentlemen – brought together by Planet Arts for this one-night-only “Jazz Mentors and New Voices” concert at the Athens Cultural Center in Athens – suddenly changed the atmosphere of the room just by playing their instruments. It takes dedication and true talent to pull off what this ensemble presented. The melodies spilled over to the street outside the Athens Cultural Center, grabbing the attention of bystanders outside. The guitar strumming, the bass plucking, and the cymbal taps and trumpet bursts were just right.

Most people would imagine such accomplished musicians having very stern and serious expressions on their faces while playing, but that wasn’t the case. It was as if they just wanted to play. They were in the groove and in the mood to do what they do best.

J Hunter’s review and photographs (with additional photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk) at Nippertown

Rhys Tivey and Adam Siegel (photo by Roberto Orozco)

Rhys Tivey and Adam Siegel (photo by Roberto Orozco)

(left) Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Nora Cady) and (right) Adam Siegel and Rhys Tivey (photo by Josie Savarese)

(left) Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Nora Cady) and (right) Adam Siegel and Rhys Tivey (photo by Josie Savarese)

Michael Benedict, Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Robert Orozco)

Michael Benedict, Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Robert Orozco)

LIVE: Michael Benedict & Bopitude (Featuring Gary Smulyan) @ Greenville High School, 4/6/12

Monday, April 9th, 2012
Michael Benedict conducting the Greenville Middle School Jazz Ensemble.

Michael Benedict conducting the Greenville Middle School Jazz Ensemble.

Review and photographs by J Hunter

School should be all about education, and that’s what was happening at the drop party for Michael Benedict & Bopitude’s second Planet Arts release in two years, “Five and One.” The proceeds from the evening – after expenses – were to go to the Greenville Educational Foundation, and thanks to underwriting from a local insurance agency, those expenses were completely taken care of. (While revealing this, drummer/Greenville HS music czar Michael Benedict threw a smile at baritone saxman Gary Smulyan, who’d broken his ankle stepping off a bus the previous month, and cracked, “You need insurance, man!”) The real education happened when Bopitude showed Greenville Central Schools’ students what master musicians look and sound like when they’re plying their craft.

Anyone who saw Bopitude at the Albany Riverfront Jazz Fest last fall knows they hit hard in concert, but the power with which they launched Sonny Stitt’s “The Eternal Triangle” really snapped heads back. Teaming Smulyan up with tenorman Brian Patneaude and trumpeter Chris Pasin straps a supercharger onto an already-hot front line, not to mention expanding the harmonies tenfold. As a result, Bopitude in full cry is – in a word – massive! Smulyan may have limped onstage with the help of a cane, but he leapt on his solo spot like a famished wolverine and simply tore it to shreds, inspiring Patneaude and Pasin to do exactly the same. Benedict was dropping bombs from the back, and really brought the noise before the group nailed the last chorus. After the applause, Benedict deadpanned, “We like to start the evening with a ballad…”


CD Release Celebrations Galore This Weekend!

Friday, April 6th, 2012

If April showers bring May flowers, then Albany winters must bring a blossoming of new CDs…

By our count, there are five big CD release celebrations going on around Nippertown this weekend. You won’t be able to catch ‘em all, but here’s the lowdown:



Holly & EvanCartoonist John CaldwellCaffe LenaAdvertise on Nippertown!The LindaLeave Regular Radio BehindAlbany PoetsHudson SoundsArtist Charles HaymesBerkshire On StageKeep Albany BoringArtist and Musician Michael Eck