“We write character-driven songs infused with both a contemporary and jazz sound.”
Each night after they took a tandem bath in their quiet home in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, twin brothers Jack and Benny Lipson would dry while their father played Beatles albums on the vinyl player. Sometimes he liked to air-conduct to Tchaikovsky recordings too, even though he knew nothing of conducting. And during the daytime, they either listened to their mother learning and rehearsing material for the musicals in which she performed, or to their grandmother improvising piano arrangements of older showtunes. They could only satiate their musical inclinations further by beginning piano lessons themselves, which soon transformed into voice and musicianship training from a most inspiring and unconventional teacher.
Middle school introduced Jack and Benny to jazz idioms as well as new musical tools: Benny began to teach himself bass while Jack explored the drum set and all kinds of percussion. Then, the performing arts high school only piqued more musical curiosities; after he watched the school’s orchestra perform Holst’s The Planets, Jack consumed as much classical as he could, reading scores in the practice rooms at lunchtime and eventually focusing on writing his own. Meanwhile Benny dove further into jazz, playing bass with the school’s big band and singing intricately rich harmonies in the vocal jazz ensemble. Nonetheless they continued to rejoice in the music of their more distant childhood, jamming to Wings, Todd Rundgren, Yes, and more together, as well as regular trips to the theater and parties where their parents’ friends sang and reminisced through the night.
Upon finishing high school, Benny and Jack lived apart for the first time in their brief lives, Benny relocating to Miami to study jazz voice/bass and Jack staying local in Los Angeles to hone his classical composition. Benny engaged deeper with the American songbook and the art of arranging, often reappropriating the songs of his new heroes Harry Nillsson, Paul Simon, and the Zombies for his jazz classes. He also found in playing guitar a new and more portable musical expression with which he could more easily share his favorite and original songs. Back home, Jack became entrenched in art song and opera, accompanying his friends singing Mozart, Verdi, Ravel, Britten, Sondheim, and everything in between. Even though he was writing exclusively contemporary classical music for dance pieces and chamber ensembles, Jack still reveled in recording artists new to him, especially Joni Mitchell, the Bee Gees, and Stevie Wonder. The craft of poetic but concise songwriting magnetized the brothers despite their couple thousand mile-distance, and affirmed Benny’s imminent return to LA after his studies.
Thus, Jack and Benny united to birth the award-winning project jackbenny. They shared their debut show in 2016 with musician-comedian Reggie Watts, and have since played their “sensational, clever, and astute” originals in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Sheridan, Wyoming—where the Wyoming Theater Festival presented a reading of their ‘musicalette,’ Miranda, Please!—and even in Falam, Myanmar at the Chin Cultural Festival. jackbenny serves as house band for both Anita Procedure’s bimonthly A Queer Cabaret at Tramp Stamp Granny’s and For Good: a Monthly Night of Showtunes to Change the World. And together, in a compartmentalizing world insisting to preach fear, jackbenny strives to spread, through the music, happiness and a love of unconditional diversity over the globe.