Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson Photography ©2018
Twin brothers, and singer/songwriters, Jack and Benny Lipson (collectively known as Jackbenny) have a lot going for them. Both equally good looking, as one would expect. And both evenly matched on stage, Jack plays piano, and Benny the bass. And, more importantly, the music that pours out of them is a testament to their generation, and gives me hope.
While I can’t (quite yet) put them on the same pedestal as Joan Baez or John Lennon, their political activism through music is inspiring, and well on its way to speaking to whatever generation comes after X, Y, and Z. But this music, far from folk, is infused with a cool jazz sensibility, that I had previously thought lost to their generation. Couple that with both social and political lyrics, in songs like The National Holiday, and When Starting with Consent, and you almost have a musical manifesto, which is sorely needed at this time of our country’s history.
Other pithy song titles include The World is Spinning, Occupations, The Warmth of a Stranger, and N.W.S (National Weather Service) Warning.
Opening their set with The National Holiday the audience was welcomed with the reminder to observe “National Turn-off-your-cellphone day” and “National Ovation day.” This was a fun, jaunty, and politically irreverent way to start the evening. And in Occupations, Benny sang with a lilting voice about the rat race of the “status” job, “Just like a lawyer needs a lawyer, I’m a lover who needs a lover.”
When Starting with Consent dealt with the “Me too” movement in a way that seemed somewhat satirical to me. However, the mostly 20-something audience (and BTW when’s the last time you read that in a cabaret review) seemed to take it quite seriously. The song practically got a standing ovation.
For The Warmth Of a Stranger Jack stepped out from the piano to sing with only bass (Benny) and trombone (Javier Nero) solo. His voice is warm and supple, with colors of a Harry Connick Jr. And his delivery was masterfully understated.
Of particular note, is the song that continues to stand out for me, since I first heard it, as part of Anita Procedure’s Show last August. Asking for a Friend is a poignant song, which speaks to the discomfort of coming out as gay, and not knowing where to turn to for the inevitable and unanswered questions. It is both funny and heartbreaking at the same time, and a great candidate for MAC’s best original song of the year.
The rest of the evening continued in this way, with the cool jazz stylings of this music being both relevant and irreverent to our present political and social surroundings. But perhaps this cool even-keel is more of a problem than not. If the political movement music of the 60 was a call to action, Jackbenny’s music seems to be a languid lament of the times, with the cool jazz color palate not changing that much. This does a disservice to otherwise very virtuosic musicians.
An entire evening of original music, without a juxtaposition of style, can quickly turn from a 5 course meal to a box lunch. And even in the case of these two gifted artists, I wanted more. I wanted to hear their perspective on traditional standards, and how their generation might reinterpret, both musically, and with the same political irreverence, a song like Dancing in the Dark. In fact, I could imagine Dancing in The Dark, or perhaps, Strangers in The Night, playing well when combined with their song, The Warmth Of a Stranger. And, by adding a few reimagined standards, it would give the audience a moment or two to fully realize just how virtuosic these two brothers really are, and allow us to then appreciate their own unique sensibility and writing skill even more, when juxtaposed against established masters. In the same way that Hilary Kole so successfully serves up both original songs and new, edgy arrangements of old standards, so too could Jackbenny reach across the generational divide with a similar tactic. C’mon boys, throw the old folks a bone.
Jackbenny have a lot to offer, they speak well to a young audience, who loves them. And, as this musical duo matures, I hope they will work to reach a wider (dare I say it – older) audience, who will also enjoy their groove. We who remember Joan Baez and John Lennon will thank you.
For more information and to check out their tour schedule visit, www.jackbennynow.com
Matt Tatro – Drums
Bella Hicks – Voice
Jackie Cox – Voice
Mikhail Torich – Videographer