Community Performance Series to Host a Swinging Celebration of Song at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music on March 15
The Community Performance Series at SUNY Potsdam will welcome “Sing and Swing: Our American Songbook,” a Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents production, as part of its spring lineup.
Featuring trumpeters, vocalists and composers Bria Skonberg and Benny Benack III, the North American tour of “Sing and Swing: Our American Songbook” will make a stop at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music on Friday, March 15, for an evening concert at 7:30 p.m., in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall. Tickets are now on sale at cpspotsdam.org.
“We're both fans of the classic songbook era and the artists that made it possible,” said Skonberg. “The fact that we're still playing these songs 75 to 100 years after they were written is a testament to their quality. Naturally, we gravitated towards the great pairings of trumpet players and vocalists, like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Prima and Keely Smith. We've listened to that music as long as we have played the trumpet. Also, the band with us is exceptional, so we'll discover and highlight everybody's hidden talents.” The show, she noted, “will have a friendly variety show type of feel.”
Benack and Skonberg will lead a talented group featuring Jocelyn Gould (guitar), Mathis Picard (piano), Mark Lewandowski (bass) and Darrian Douglas (drums). The performers are the eighth Cania Visiting Artists for the CPS Guest Artist Series.
The repertoire, notes co-leader Benny Benack III, will include songs such as Duke Ellington's classic “In a Mellow Tone,” a duet featuring Skonberg on trumpet and vocals, featured in his most recent album, “Third Time's the Charm.” The show will also include “Comes Love,” a nod to the inimitable Louis and Ella; “Banana Split For My Baby,” a cheeky swinger by Louis Prima and Keely Smith, and “I'm Glad There is You,” a classic by Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown.
“There are a lot of familiar songs that people know and love," said Benack. "But we have put fresh arrangements on these songs. And Bria and I also have some of our brand-new original material inspired by this era's music. We wanted to have a modern take on the songwriting form. So we have some of that as well. You keep the music fresh by adding your experiences and making it relatable to the audience before you."
To present “Sing and Swing: Our American Songbook,” and following the success of last year's “Songs We Love: 50 Years of Jazz Song," Jazz at Lincoln Center is partnering again with the international booking agency IMG Artists. The aim of JALC's tour initiative is to allow presenters to offer excellent jazz programming while introducing to a broader audience the musicians who will reinterpret and reimagine the sound of jazz for years to come. It is part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's mission "to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education and advocacy."
As part of those efforts, the tour will include an educational component in selected cities, including at The Crane School of Music, where the guest musicians will lead four masterclasses for students in respective studio areas at Crane on March 14 and 15, leading up to the performance.
"I didn't grow up in a big city. I grew up in a small town," says Skonberg, a native of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. "There was no way that anything from Jazz at Lincoln Center would come there. It will be a real pleasure to connect with people from different towns along the way. It's going to be a joy to get to spread the word."
About the performers:
Called “one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation” by the Wall Street Journal, Bria Skonberg is a singular talent who has performed with everyone from Jon Batiste, Wycliffe Gordon, U2 and Sun Ra Arkestra to the nation’s top symphony orchestras. Her music has garnered tens of millions of streams worldwide. The Juno Award winner’s seventh studio album “What it Means,” which was recorded in New Orleans with the Crescent City's finest, will be released in the fall of 2024. The daughter of teachers, Skonberg is deeply committed to education. She is the co-founder and director of the New York Hot Jazz Camp, and has served on the faculty at the Teagarden, Centrum and Geri Allen Jazz Camps, in addition to presenting hundreds of concerts and clinics for students of all ages, both independently and on behalf of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz House Kids and the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
Benny Benack III, part of a family of Pittsburgh jazz notables, follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, the trumpeter and bandleader Benny Benack Sr. (1921-1986), and his father Benny Benack Jr., a saxophonist and clarinetist who gave young Benny his first professional experience. An Emmy-nominated trumpeter and vocalist, Benack (affectionately known as BB3) was recognized in the 2022 DownBeat Critics Poll as a Rising Star Male Vocalist and a top Rising Star Trumpeter. He has performed internationally as an emcee/host for Postmodern Jukebox, and appeared as a trumpet soloist for Josh Groban, Diplo and fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi, as well as cabaret legends such as Marilyn Maye, Melissa Errico and Ann Hampton Callaway. He has also been a special guest with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops Orchestra and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. His TV credits include appearances in the house band of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” as well as NBC’s “Maya & Marty.” He achieved online notoriety for his vocal features with the Grammy-award winning 8-Bit Big Band, as well as his viral hit sensation music video of “Social Call,” featuring Veronica Swift. Benack has recorded four well-received albums, “One of a Kind,” “A Lot of Livin' to Do,” “Season’s Swingin’ Greetings” and, mostly recently, “Third Time's the Charm.”
To purchase tickets, visit www.cpspotsdam.org or contact the Community Performance Series Box Office, located in the Performing Arts Center lobby, by calling (315) 267-2277 or visiting in person, Wednesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are also available at the door one hour prior to showtime, pending availability.
Free youth ticket vouchers are available for children and teens age 17 and younger, thanks to a generous sponsorship by Stewart’s Shops. To reserve a voucher, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Youth attendees must be accompanied by an adult ticketholder.
About Community Performance Series:
The Community Performance Series is a college-community partnership presenting distinctive and renowned performing artists and arts education opportunities in Northern New York. This rich mixture of programming links communities, classrooms and audiences of all ages and preserves access to the performing arts for future generations. For more information, visit www.cpspotsdam.org.
About The Crane School of Music:
Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution and was one of the first Yamaha Institutions of Excellence. For more information, please visit www.potsdam.edu/crane.
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