As versatile on the classics (“Darn that Dream”) as on original material (“Flint Water Crisis”), Benny “Saxable” Rubin Jr. leads with precision and clarity. He has the chops and guts for unexpected changes like a Monk disciple and has definitely empowered his ensemble to embrace their creativity too. Inspired by social unrest and the quest for justice, his new CD “Know See or Say” evokes an open-ended conversation; not just his musicians but listeners are part of. The track “Or See” has rollicking piano and sharp-edged percussion on which he layers a long hot sound. His tone is full, his approach to solos egalitarian. With a great sense of balance, the free jazz songs are matched with tunes from yesteryear that are classically melodic and lyrical, like the sweet and light “Kiss Me Right” that nods appreciatively to Horace Silver.
Rubin is a forward-thinking musician who respects the music’s past and can tell new stories on his sax. A head-turning show-out.
What was the first jazz song you remember hearing and how did it make you feel?
I remember hearing the music of Benny Goodman & Charlie Parker. I was about 12 years old. I was learning to play by ear. I remember feeling like the music was hard to play.
What made you choose the sax?
I chose the saxophone because my elementary school didn’t offer football and I had to pick an instrument for music class. Before that, I never thought about playing music at all.
Were there any particularly pivotal moments in your early education that made you decide on a life in music?
I don’t think there was a particular moment it was just a feeling inside of me that I got while playing. After about a year, I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career.
Which artists inspire you?
Many Detroit artists whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and playing with inspire me. They include Wendell Harrison, James Carter and JDAllen among others.
What was it like playing in your first jazz festival?
My first jazz festival was the Detroit Jazz Festival. I loved seeing so many people both musicians and fans of jazz in one place.
What is your favorite collaboration?
I loved playing with the guys I went to high school with called Modern Element. We became more like brothers over the course of high school.
Who would you most like to collab with that you have NOT yet played with? (living artists only)
I began to play Hip-Hop since moving to Miami, so I would like to collaborate with more mainstream artists like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Lil Baby and H.E.R.
How did you get the opportunity to sit in with Hargrove and what was that experience like?
I met Roy Hargrove at the Smalls Jam session in NY. He was performing at the Blue Note Jazz Club and I asked him the previous night if I could come and was able to be his guest. When he saw me, he asked me if I wanted to play a song. It wasn’t surprising because Roy does a great job of supporting young musicians.
What was the inspiration behind “Know Say and See” and how long did it take from the time you started writing?
“Know Say Or See” was inspired by things that was going on in my life at the time. It took me a week to compose the entire album.
What was the most challenging part of production?
The most challenging part was recording the album with a student horn.
How have you reinvented the business side of music since lockdown and what other changes have you made?
I have been doing a lot of street performing. Playing more popular music of today-widening my audience and my social media followers.
What gigs do you have lined up for the rest of the year into 2022?
Right now I’m taking time to study my craft. My gigs are always posted on my website at Bennysaxable.com
What advice would you give to new musicians?
Study as much as you can about the history of music as well as the business if you can. Compose as much as possible and find ways to relate to the general public. Also be consistent with your routine if you want to be successful.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist. Photo c. Chris Anderson.
(c) 2021 Debbie Burke