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Pursuance : The Coltranes, Lakecia Benjamin

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Charismatic and dynamic saxophonist/bandleader Lakecia Benjamin's electric stage presence and fiery sax work, has shared stages with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, The Roots, Macy Gray and many others, brings the soul and funk up to a fever pitch in a show that's guaranteed to keep crowds dancing day or night. Though her own music with her band Lakecia Benjamin and Soul Squad is immersed in the vintage sounds of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Sly and the Family Stone and the Meters as well as classic jazz, Benjamin's soaring, dance floor-friendly grooves take the classic vibe to a whole new level. The constant throughout it all is Benjamin's summery, sultry alto saxophone, adding something special on every cut - be it a smoldering late-night ambience, an erudite, forceful jazz intensity or the tight funk multi-horn harmony sections that pepper the proceedings throughout.

A streetwise New York City native born and raised in Washington Heights, Lakecia Benjamin has become one of the most highly sought-after players in soul and funk music. She first picked up the saxophone at Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, after which she joined the renowned jazz program at New York's New School University. By that time, she was already playing with renowned jazz figures like Clark Terry and Reggie Workman, which led to gigs and tours with a wide array of artists such as Rashied Ali, the David Murray Big Band, Vanessa Rubin and 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 Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, the Roots, and Anita Baker.

Currently, Benjamin is a featured musician for Gregory Porter as well as a featured musician and arranger for comedy star Craig Robinson and the Nasty Delicious. (Robinson, best known for his work on TV's The Office as well as such popular films as Pineapple Express and Hot Tub Time Machine, tours regularly with the Nasty Delicious band serving as the main foil in his popular comedy act). Benjamin has also had the honor of performing at the White House at President Obama's inaugural ball. She's performed on four continents and her extensive recording credits include saxophone and arrangements for Santigold, Maurice Brown, the Clark Terry Big Band, Krystle Warren and TalibKweli, among others.

Pursuance : The Coltranes, Lakecia Benjamin

There’s always been an undeniable mystical, enticing element to the music of the Coltranes and on Pursuance, Benjamin is mindful of retaining the underlying spirituality of these compositions – “they were writing songs to indian gods, to christian gods, to muslim gods – their whole idealogy was that every religion is one and we’re all one with god.”  In this regard, Pursuance speaks to the unifying nature of the jazz artform.  Every member of this cross-generational recording ensemble welcomed the opportunity to collaborate and pay homage to each other.  “Music is a reflection of our times; a reflection of the spirit of our times,” Benjamin continues. “In our current social and political climate, we need music to heal the soul.”  Just as the timeless compositions of the Coltranes connected with audiences of yesteryear, Pursuance brings this material into 2020 with carefully conceived modern arrangements.  Each of the thirteen tracks on Pursuance are tunes that instantly resonated with Benjamin upon first listen – seven of which originally composed by John, with six credited to Alice. The selection includes “Liberia”, “Prema”, “Central Park West”, “Walk With Me”, “Going Home”, “Syeeda’s Song Flute”, “Spiral”, “Om Shanti”, “Alabama”, “Acknowledgement”, “Pursuance”, “Turiya and Ramakrishna” and “Affinity”.

Episode #217

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