ANN ARBOR – Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, Single’s Awareness or Galentine’s Day, stop by the Ann Arbor District on Thursday night for a free concert by the Derrick Benford Quartet.
At 7 p.m. the Detroit-based quartet will serenade audience members with its distinctive sound -- a blend of jazz, gospel, hip-hop and rhythym and blues.
Composed of Matt Ryan (bass), Derrick Benford (keys), Matt Callaway (guitar) and Alex White (drums), the quartet has spread its spectacular sound around Detroit.
We emailed Benford -- who has played jazz all over the world -- about the concert, his jazz influences and music in Michigan.
A4: This is the Derrick Benford Quartet's first concert at AADL. What drew you to performing at the library?
Benford: “Ann Arbor has always intrigued me. The city is home to one of the best schools for music studies, U of M. The most notable names in music came from the U of M music program, so we were eager to perform at the library when we received the invite to do so. It’s a privilege to become a part of its history. A library is a place for community enrichment, where you can learn about the past, study for the future, hang with friends, share ideas, enjoy friends’ company and be fulfilled through various displays of art. All of those things are enjoyed in a public place that promotes education and well being. It’s exciting and we’re honored to perform in Ann Arbor at the AADL.”
A4: You've have played all over the U.S. and internationally with other jazz musicians. Is there something about the music scene in Michigan that brings you back here?
Benford: "'There’s no place like home.' Michigan is our home, and for me Detroit is my musical den. Some of the most influential musicians got their start here. And today, artists here are making an impact on music globally. The unique sound of our music hub draws musicians from everywhere. No matter where we go in the world, although we’re familiar with the sound of Detroit, we know that Detroit’s sound stands out, and that’s what draws us back to this place.”
A4: Are there any artists that you feel have inspired or influenced your direction in music, or the Quartet's musical direction?
Benford: “There are quite a few artists that have influenced our direction in music -- a collage of artists over the years if that makes sense. Also, each of us has our own unique set of influences that we glean from, which adds to our collective sound. Of course, we share common interests in the jazz greats like Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, etc, but we also draw musical inspiration outside of the jazz genre. The Detroit Metro Area has a diverse musical offering and extensive musical history. The area is what we would consider to be a gospel, hip hop, country, classical, house/techno and jazz hub. It’s normal for us to listen to an artist like Barry Harris, switch to J Dilla, then turn on some Clark Sister’s, then go to Vulfpeck and back to Kenny Garret. Our direction is constantly evolving as we listen to what our contemporaries like Chris Johnson (Detroit), Marcus Elliot (Detroit), Snarky Puppy and Ghost Note are doing now.”
A4: Since the concert is on Valentine's Day, will you be playing any specific songs for the audience?
Benford: “Yes. I recently married and I wrote a ballad dedicated to my wife (wife to be at the time of composing it) titled 'Just Because.' I recorded the song with the Gene Dunlap Band on the 'Page 7' album. The song incorporates modern jazz elements and captures, I feel, the essence of loving someone for who they are without expecting them to show you love in return. Most of the music that night will be dedicated to love, the good and not so good parts of it.”
A4: And lastly, where can people find out more about your music or the Quartet?
The concert will be held in the AADL Downtown branch’s basement multipurpose room. For more about Derrick and his musical experiences, head over to AADL's Pulp.
The Downtown branch of the AADL is located at 343 S Fifth St.
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