Jazz at Lincoln Center Artists to Perform ‘Songbook’ Classics at YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Sing and Swing: Our American Songbook, featuring Benny Benack III and Bria Skonberg, will come to Youngstown State University’s Ford Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23.

Tickets are $30 ($25 for non-YSU students, YSU alumni, faculty, staff, senior citizens, Penguin Club members and groups of eight or more) and can be purchased by calling 330 941 3105 or at ysu.tix.com. All seats are general admission.

The duo, each a trumpet player and singer, will be backed by an ensemble in playing some of the greatest pop songs of the past century.

Their appearance is part of the Donald P. Pipino performing arts series at YSU and is in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents.

“We’re both fans of the classic songbook era and the artists that made it possible,” Skonberg said in a press release. “The fact that we’re still playing these songs 75 to 100 years after they were written is a testament to their quality.”

Their performances have “a friendly variety show type of feel,” she said.

The duo naturally gravitate to the pairings of trumpet players and vocalists like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Prima and Keely Smith.

“We’ve listened to that music as long as we have played the trumpet,” Skonberg said.

The backing band includes guitarist Jocelyn Gould, pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Mark Lewandowski and percussionist Charles Goold.

The repertoire will include songs such as Duke Ellington’s classic “In a Mellow Tone,” which is a duet featuring Skonberg on trumpet and vocals; “Comes Love,” a nod to Armstrong and Fitzgerald; “Banana Split for My Baby,” a cheeky swinger by Prima and Smith; and “I’m Glad There is You,” a classic by Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown.

“There are a lot of familiar songs that people know and love,” Benack said. “But we have put fresh arrangements on these songs.”

Also included in the set list are some new original songs written by Benack and Skonberg that are inspired by the music of that era.

“We wanted to have a modern take on the songwriting form, so we have some of that as well. You keep the music fresh by adding your experiences and making it relatable to the audience before you.”

Called “one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation” by The Wall Street Journal, Skonberg has performed with everyone from Jon Batiste, Wycliffe Gordon, U2 and Sun Ra Arkestra to the nation’s top symphony orchestras.

The Juno Award winner’s seventh studio album, “What it Means,” will be released in the fall.

Benack, part of a family of Pittsburgh jazz notables, follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, trumpeter and bandleader Benny Benack Sr. (1921-86), and his father, Benny Benack Jr., a saxophonist and clarinetist.

An Emmy Award-nominated trumpeter and vocalist, Benack was recognized in the 2022 DownBeat Critics Poll as a Rising Star Male Vocalist and a top Rising Star Trumpeter. He has performed internationally as an emcee/host for Postmodern Jukebox and appeared as a trumpet soloist for Josh Groban, Diplo and fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi, as well as cabaret legends such as Marilyn Maye, Melissa Errico, and Ann Hampton Callaway. He has also

been a special guest with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops Orchestra and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra.

He has released four albums.

Pictured at top: Benny Benack III and Bria Skonberg will perform at YSU on Friday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.