If we have to rate the most chill yet grooving concert from the Music Department, then it’s got to be when Dr. Jeffrey Benedict and professor Dave Askren play together.
“We have been playing together for over 20 years,” said Dr. Benedict. “We have recorded four CDs together.”
The two started when professor Askren was still a graduate student at Cal State LA and Dr. Benedict was a professor. “We have played together with a variety of different musicians,” remembered professor Askren. “It’s never the exact same group.” The combo might vary, but the duo has not changed since day one.
Besides playing on college campus to educate music students, Dr. Benedict and professor Askren’s combo also play at the Canyon Crest Winery in Riverside, Mario’s Place, and Jax in Glendale. According to Dr. Benedict, their goal is simple- to keep playing.
On the night of Tuesday, September 27, they did it again. In the cozy music hall, students and friends stayed late on campus just to see the professors in their natural form. With Dr. Benedict on Saxophone, professor Askren on Guitar, Blake White on Bass, and Dean Koba on Drums, the combo walked on stage with a signature laugh from Dr. Benedict.
The concert was called “The Groove Returns”, named following their previous album “All About the Groove”. According to professor Askren, their new project is “‘Organ Jazz’, where the organist plays chords and also [plays] the role of the bass player.”
The combo planned to record the new album in late October, although the title had not been settled.
Served as a preview to their upcoming album, the concert was a blend of old and new tunes. There were Jazz standards such as “Moments Notice”, “Nardis”, “Come Together”, “Willow Weep for Me”, but evolved with Dr. Benedict and professor Askren’s own arrangements, also original compositions from Dr. Benedict such as “Cheese Grits”, and “Pineapple Head”.
Grooving solos, heads bumping, and students constantly cheering for their professors. “We are aiming for a 1960s/70s ‘groove’ feel similar to the old CTI recordings,” said Dr. Benedict in regards to the combo’s style.
In addition to simply delivering a performance, the professors were also modeling for their students.
“One of my main educational goals is to make the student technically proficient do they are prepared to play a variety of musical styles,” said professor Askren for future guitarists.
As a soloist, Dr. Benedict’s advice was “Always strive to move the audience.” Hoping that the groove would be well inherited by the students to their core.