A musical prodigy with an ear for the past swings back to play with the Modesto Symphony Orchestra.
Dave Bennett’s Clarinet Swing Kings bring big-band jazz to the Modesto Symphony Orchestra today at the Gallo Center.
Bennett, who began playing professionally at 13 and touring a year later, last played with the orchestra in 2010. His return with his sextet brings back the big-band sound of the 1930s, 1940s and beyond.
“It was the music that got me enthused when I was young,” said Bennett, now 29. “That was the music that grabbed me emotionally initially. Something about the emotion of it uplifted me. No other music has the same effect on me.”
Bennett, his sextet and vocalist Rebecca Kilgore will be joined by conductor David Lockington and the orchestra in a program that runs through the music of jazz greats like Artie Shaw, Pete Fountain, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Benny Goodman.
“Working with a symphony orchestra on this kind of music really works well,” Bennett said. “It’s like a big band only amplified. It’s a huge band.”
Bennett started playing in the fifth grade, when he signed up for the school band. His grandparents bought him a clarinet from a pawn shop and a cassette tape of Goodman’s band.
“I went out of my mind,” he said. “I knew that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
The orchestra program will salute great jazz clarinetists. Bennett said it is music that has endured because of its quality.
“Music from that era was just quality stuff. I think it’s very honest,” he said. “I hate to get into cliches of it being classic, but it really is. Whenever people of any age seem to hear it, they like it.”