Sammy BenskinVer no iTunes
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Pianist Sammy Benskin was considered one of the finest of accompanists for vocalists, to the point where he spent parts of his career simply coaching them rather than following them on-stage. By the time Benskin was done with his students, which included singers of the caliber of Diahann Carroll, none could possibly be the subject of a joke such as "How do you know when a singer is at the door?" (Answer: They don't know how to come in.) Benskin made his professional debut at the age of 18, backing up Bardu Ali, a performer whose name sounds something like the title of an Egyptian novel. Through the '40s, the pianist was associated a strong lineup of jazzmen including Bobby Burnet, Stuff Smith, Gene Sedric, Benny Morton, and Don Redman. By the end of the decade and into the early '50s, he began leading his own piano trio as well as appearing as a soloist. Roy Hamilton and Titus Turner became the first of many singers he would accompany during this period, and Benskin also joined a group named the Three Flames in the summer of 1954. The following year he began a stint as part of the Time of Your Life revue at City Center in New York, a gig he would bounce in and out of while training with singers as diverse as Carroll and the magnificent Al Hibbler. He followed Time of Your Life overseas for performances at the Brussels World Fair and for a brief spell began touring with Dinah Washington as her accompanist. From the '60s onward, he stayed fairly busy as a vocal coach, arranger, and producer. A disc's worth of his solo performances entitled These Foolish Songs was reissued a decade after his death.