We Are The Orchestra, by Daniel Bennett, is a masterful achievement of 19th century opera composer Giuseppe Verdi’s work, interpreted in dueling Jazz and Folk guitar and brass instrumentals. Like dueling pianos, only with guitars and woodwinds. Daniel Bennett studied saxophone at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston, Bennett has also lived in New York City for over a decade. It doesn’t matter if you’re familiar with such work or not, because the outcome is a phenomenon all its own with almost nothing to do with the original compositions and seems to be done more in a style tradition that way.
Daniel Bennett currently plays woodwinds in – Blank! The Musical, the first fully improvised Off-Broadway musical to launch on a national stage. He works together here with guitarist Mark Coche, and they both swirl around one another with the greatest of ease on this extraordinary CD. This is a pretty serious collection, but it also contains some humor that renders it more light-hearted than not. The first track, “Loose Fitting Spare Tire” and it’s actually-not hugely indicative of what else there is to be found among these terrific songs. In fact, it is probably one of the more musically eclectic tracks, but it gets better.
“I’m Not Nancy” picks up the pace and not only gets you right into things, it leaves the first track to stand on its own, apart from the rest of the CD. I love the Spanish guitar lines, and the whole track simply cooks. This is the type of thing any contemporary music lover will enjoy, whilst sticking very much to the classic factor as well. The flute is what takes the track over the top for me. “Gold Star Mufflers” keeps with the humor on a melancholy note and whatever it seems to do with cars in the overall concept of the CD. It’s just something that adds a nice twist to the already cool idea to rework the opera composer’s material.
“Theme From Ernani” has an ethnic vibe not unlike one of the previous cuts, and it’s where folk and jazz meet on an even plane as they get more into their musical journey together. Once again, the flute and sharp acoustic guitar get a delightful workout. Picture yourself in a greenhouse or a room full of flowers, and this track does the business. As does “Refinancing For Elephants” with its fantastically soothing melodies. The same goes for “Inside Our Pizza Oven” with its eastern vibes.
One of the strongest tracks might be “Theme From II Travatore” because of its complex nature, but it’s all up to ones taste, I just find this to be less clinical than some others. The freedom to improvise is the best thing you can say about a piece of music, and We Are The Orchestra comes recommended for that and so much more that by the time “Carl Finds His Way,” you’ve heard one of the most interesting CD’s of 2018, as the guitar blazes away and leaves you pretty much floored. Many have tried to pull off just the right blend of old and new, but Daniel Bennett and CO take it to another level.