‘Jazz Faculty Highlights’ engage students and viewers alike

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Photo by Kenzie Carlson

Kenzie Carlson

On Feb. 12 Florida Southern faculty member Dr. Jeff Benatar from the Florida Southern music department took part in the first Jazz Faculty Highlights event on campus. Benatar put this event together with the help of both full time and adjunct professors in the music department.

The efforts of professors such as Dr. Brian Brink, History of Jazz professor Paul Butcher, applied instructor of Saxophone Valerie Gillespie, applied Drum Set instructor Ian Goodman and applied Jazz Bass instructor Jay Mueller brought this performance together.

Of the eight pieces performed at the event, my favorites included “A Darker Hue of Blue,” which was arranged by Benatar himself, and “Interface,” as well as Benatar’s own “Hanky Swanky.”

 I enjoyed these pieces for their tempo and the variance of instruments used in each piece.

“Hanky Swanky” specifically stood out  to me because of the heavy ties to Hank Jones and his music. 

The concert was entertaining for viewers like me, but also encouraging to FSC jazz students like John Pirillo who plays lead trumpet.

“Watching him perform is really inspiring and encourages me to better my personal performance skills,” Pirillo said.

The performance, Benatar notes, is the fastest part of the whole preparation process. 

 The performance is where the musicians have to trust all of their hard work and become confident with their abilities on stage. 

“Watching Dr. Benatar perform along with the other faculty really set some great examples for myself and my peers,” Pirillo said. “He’s a phenomenal professor who has the talent to back up his teaching.” 

The setlist included eight songs and all of the music played was either inspired by or written by Hank Jones.

“I arranged four of the pieces we played last night and that was my way of putting my own personal spin/understanding on the Music of Hank Jones,” Benatar said. “I also wrote the closing piece “Hanky Swanky” based on this deep study and investigation into the music of Hank Jones.”

In order to make the performance come to life, Benatar had to first do research. 

“This involves researching the history, importance, and characteristics of the artist, era or type of music you are preparing,” Benatar said. “This includes online research, reading, listening to interviews, watching YouTube videos and listening and detailing recordings.”

Picking his topic is just as important, and usually happens after Benatar completes his research. 

“This usually involves selecting which pieces you’d like to play, transcribing any pieces that are not published, deciding what instrumentation you would like for each piece, writing specific arrangements of the pieces and organizing the pieces in a cohesive set,” Benatar said. 

Benatar also has to consider logistical aspects of performance. 

“This involves coordinating a rehearsal time, booking the hall, organizing a sound check, preparing an efficient rehearsal plan, editing and double checking all individual parts, distributing parts and recordings and crystallizing one’s vision for the performance,” Benatar said. 

Through Benatar’s “Hanky Swanky,”  I could see his affinity for Jones as well as better understand Jones’ importance in the jazz field.

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