JAZZ SET TO SIZZLE: Benny Benack III and the Christian Tamburr Trio at PRD

Updated August 1, 2023 at 5:18 p.m.

If you listen to jazz, then you already know and love Benny Benack III and his incredibly successful family whose long careers in the music industry have paved the way for his current success. If you aren’t a jazz aficionado, then you might know Benack as a frequent member of the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, or from his viral success (amassing millions of views online) for singing with the Grammy-award winning 8-Bit Big Band, a jazz orchestra that plays classic and popular videogame tunes. It is not often that Savannah is graced with the presence of such talent and star-power, but on Wednesday, Aug. 2 at District Live at the Plant Riverside District, Benack, backed by the Christian Tamburr Trio, will be delivering audiences his unique brand of panache through skillful and fiery trumpeting and passionate vocals, all with the spirit of classic crooners like Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and legendary showmen like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie.

“This show is going to be super fun,” said Benack. “In particular, I have worked with Christian for many years and he’s really great at programming shows that are not only musically and artistically rich, but also just really fun and entertaining. We’re going to play hits that people recognize and a repertoire that everyone can sing along with. There will be something for everyone.”

Audiences can expect to hear standards by Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and other icons, a modern perspective on the Great American Songbook and of course, songs from Benack’s third album, “Third Time’s The Charm.”

“I will be playing my original music that is in the same style as the Great American Songbook, with influences like Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Bublé, Sinatra and others like that, and I also have some Burt Bacharach songs on the album,” explained Benack. “I even have a version of American Woman from Lenny Kravitz and The Guess Who.”

According to Benack, the audience can also expect to hear a tribute to the late Tony Bennett who recently passed away on July 21. Benack had the opportunity to sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for Bennett at an awards ceremony a few years ago and cherishes the personal moment he was able to share with him after the performance.

“We spoke afterwards and he told me that he was proud that I was carrying on the tradition,” said Benack.

While only 32, Benack has amassed quite the career, which in combination with his genetics, makes him one of the most versatile and virtuosic voices and trumpeters of his generation.

His grandfather, Benny Benack, Sr., was made famous by his song “Beat’em Bucs” that became a staple at Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers games. You also might know him from a 1973 episode of Mr. Rogers Neighrborhood where he demonstrates his musical talents at Negri’s Music Shop. Benack’s father, Benny “Peek” Benack II, is also a talented jazz musician of hobby who accompanies performers such as singer Heather Kropf on occasion. Benack’s mother, Claudia Benack, is a professor of music theater at Carnegie Mellon University. 

Despite his lineage, Benack has certainly not ridden any coattails and has carved out his own extraordinary and diverse career. Over the years, he has performed with top artists, including Josh Groban, Christian McBride and Ben Folds. He has been featured at Birdland Jazz Club (where Count Basie and his orchestra recorded live in the 1950’s, and others soon followed like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and many more), Jazz at Lincoln Center and many other leading, New York venues. This diversity has enriched his musical performances in a way that makes him stand out from other musicians in his genre.

“The nature of being a freelance artist is that you have to be open to the direction that the next gig is going to take you,” explained Benack. “I love that spontaneity every night of having a difference musical hat to wear. It keeps me fresh and when I do one of my own shows, I take that formula and I always want to make sure that no two songs ever feel the same. I use styles from all different kinds of music. I even have an arrangement of a Backstreet Boys song that I turned Afro/Cuban.”

Benack was honored in the 2022 Downbeat Critics Poll as the #2 Rising Star Male Vocalist and as a Rising Star Trumpeter, and has performed internationally as an emcee/host for Postmodern Jukebox.

“My musical mission is to be inclusive and bring people together,” said Benack. “I want my music to spread joy and positivity, and to bring people together.”

In regards to his premier in Savannah on Aug. 2, Benack will be playing alongside award-winning and internationally recognized pianist/vibraphonist Christian Tamburr who, while playing this show as a trio, typically leads the Christian Tamburr Quartet, which performs regularly at venues such as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and the Newport Jazz Festival. Additionally, Benack will be backed by Grammy-award winning drummer Ulyssess Owens, Jr., who has performed with Dave Brubeck and is the former musical director for Julio Iglesias. 

“Ulyssess was actually the first musician who was a mentor to me and my first international travel to Japan was because when I was 21, he put me in his band, The New Century Jazz Quartet,” Benack recalls. “We toured, recorded a few albums and when I made my first album, he played drums on it, as well as played drums on and produced my second album. He’s one of the biggest jazz drummers in the world, so with him and Christian, you are really getting three stars for the price of ane at this show. It’s pretty unique.”

If you are looking for some big city entertainment without having to hop a plane, then be sure to catch Benack in Savannah before he jets off to his next show in Japan. Venue doors open at 6 p.m., with the performance starting at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 per person and are available plantriverside.com or by clicking here.

Published August 1, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Brittany Herren

Brittany Herren is a freelance writer and a passionate supporter of the local art and music scenes. As a musician turned 30-something professional executive, she lives vicariously through her story subjects and usually writes while listening to 60s, French pop or Patsy Cline. Herren has a B.A. in English from...
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