Loyal readers know that when Massimo writes that someone is great, he’s not overstating the case. Well, take a note about this name please – you’ve heard it here first: Lorin Benedict, vocalist and composer, one third of The Holly Martins together with equally outstanding guitarist Eric Vogler and alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen. Benedict (who, on the press section of his website, placed a lone critic’s quote that says “annoying wordless vocals” – so much for successful earwax treatment, folks) completely redefines the concept of scat singing through something that sounds like a backward tape version of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate sung in a half-English, half-Brazilian accent by a James Taylor/Arto Lindsay hybrid. It’s technically astounding, inevitably comic and ultimately impressive; I mean, the guy does not miss a single beat for over 38 minutes, keeping the elegant rambling going flawlessly and ironically, except for a few top-rank instrumental interludes.
Absolutely wonderful per se, Benedict’s oral art is also the beneficiary of unimpeachable contrapuntal work by Vogler, whose responsive mind and velvety touch has nothing to envy to celebrated “names”, and Knudsen, a lyrical yet zealous reedist with a penchant for classily tasteful lines. This trio, mainly working on original materials plus a couple of illustrious evergreens (which, you guess it, are pretty revitalized by their handling), is among the nicest surprises received this year. If, say, Bobby McFerrin became wealthy and famous with a piece of junk (that’s right, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) and countless boring-to-death smoky ladies are highly regarded for truckloads of shoo-be-doo-ba poppycock (the examples are too many to list), then these three revisionists should receive a sizeable grant by the clever minds in some foundation where the future of jazz is still an essential issue. Hats off, guys.