The Dave Bennett Quartet: Tad Weed (piano), Kurt Krahnke (bass), Dave Bennett (guitar), Pete Siers (drums)

Digging the Rhythms of the “America’s Roots of Pop” Concert Featuring the Dave Bennett Quartet

Covering music from a wide swath of the 20th Century—starting with the jazzy instrumental tunes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie through the rockabilly rhythms of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis right up to the legendary styles of Johnny Cash and the Beatles—the Dave Bennett Quartet’s intensity and enthusiasm shone brightly in this 2-hour concert, part of the Mitchell County (Iowa) Concert Association’s 2016-2017 Season.

The 2 1/2 hour drive through steady rain to the northern Iowa town of Osage (not far from the Minnesota border) proved tedious, but the treasure at the end of the road spurred me on: Dave Bennett and his Quarter’s first stop on their America’s Roots of Pop concert tour. I arrived at the venue 15 minutes before the 7:00 PM concert and immediately discovered that these community concerts drew in music lovers from miles around: the large parking lot was completely full so I had to park on a nearby residential street.

Although the crowd filled the large auditorium to near capacity, I snagged a front row seat behind the piano which gave me a clear view of the pianist’s hands. I had heard the dynamic Michigan-based leader of this Quartet, Dave Bennett, many times at various jazz festivals and concerts, including his headlining collaboration with the Philadelphia Pops in October 2016. Dave’s musical versatility was well evident during this show, as he moved from clarinet to piano to guitar, often combined with his excellent vocals (and a side-gig on drums during the last selection). Rounding out the Quartet were a superb group of musicians with many years of individual success: Kurt Krahnke on electric bass, Pete Siers on drums, and Tad Weed on piano.

The show opened with Dave on clarinet for a Benny Goodman classic “Avalon” followed by the crowd-pleasing Count Basie standard “One O’Clock Jump.” Dave added vocals to the mix with “St. James Infirmary Blues” and his fingers flew over the clarinet keys on the swinging “I’ve Got Rhythm.”  The Quartet then moved into the 1950s pop era, with a sensuous arrangement of “Earth Angel” that showcased the clarinet’s mellow low tones.

Dave replaced Tad at the piano for the next four songs: “Roll Over Beethoven“, “Your Cheating Heart“, “Great Balls of Fire“, and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.”

 

 

The crowd joined in with the raucous rockabilly spirit, clapping and singing along as Dave tickled the ivories with various body parts (feet, backside) and from different angles, including standing on the piano bench.

Talk about a workout!  We all needed an intermission after that quartet of rollicking tunes.

In the second half of the concert Dave picked up his guitar for Elvis’ “Burning Love” followed by Johnny Cash’s dark but pulsing “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Dave returned to the piano for Chuck Berry’s iconic “Memphis, Tennessee“, then treated the audience to an original composition, “Lonesome Highway” which Dave wrote when he was a mere 17 years old.

Dave again picked up his clarinet for a melodic interpretation of The Beatles’ “Yesterday“, followed by an impressively long (almost 18 minutes) rendition of Louis Prima’s classic “Sing Sing Sing” which featured solos by Tad Weed on piano and Pete Siers on drums.

 The Quartet closed out the show with a spirited interpretation of “When the Saints Go Marching In” offering a good-natured dual on drums between Dave and Pete.

This concert proved to be the memorable musical experience I expected, with nearly two full hours of the world’s best musical talent, right in small-town Iowa.

For more information on Dave Bennett, including his upcoming performances, visit http://davebennett.com.

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