About Benji Kaplan
Born to a Cuban father of Russian Jewish descent and an Austrian Jewish
mother, Kaplan has found a way to combine “New York, Central European,
Latino and Brazilian cultures, resulting in a rich blend of sounds and colors,”
according to François Becquart of Music in Belgium. The deeply informed
Brazilian focus of his original output to date has won him recognition as “a true
ambassador of Brazilian music in New York” (Canal Musical). On Something
Here Inside, Kaplan does not leave that sound behind so much as he adapts it
to a different purpose. The play of inner voices and counterpoint in Kaplan’s
arrangements lets us hear melodies above and below and across the melodies,
always something different. One gets the sense of Benji’s guitar in a spoken
conversation with the listener — but the listener is the song itself, in a constant
call-and-response between basslines, chords and melody. The time flows freely
and interpretively throughout.
Kaplan’s frame of reference in a given moment might be the seven-string
guitar language of Rio’s samba and choro traditions, or Sinatra and Caymmi, or
perhaps Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Mahler. Melodic displacement, interludes
and detours within the forms, unconventional modulations, an entirely original
new intro in the case of “But Not for Me,” a quasi-vaudevillian tour de force on
the aptly led “Anything Goes”: Kaplan brings all these devices and composerly
details into unity in a way that expands the parameters of the nylon-string
acoustic guitar in jazz.
An award-winning guitarist, composer, arranger, multilingual vocalist and
educator with 6 albums to date, Benji Kaplan has performed in venues
alongside world-renowned artists such as Junior Mance, Bernard Purdie, Earth
Wind & Fire, Seu Jorge and Kassin. The son of a percussionist father and a
visual artist mother, Kaplan made multiple excursions to Brazil as a teenager
and an adult, and he offers a unique look at jazz and classical music informed
by his vast musical experiences performing, writing, studying and playing with
master Brazilian composers/performers since the age of 18. Guinga, the most
recognized composer from Brazil post Jobim, has stated: “I think he is the
greatest composer of Brazilian music to come from the United States... He is a
genius.” Although Kaplan’s compositions are deeply informed harmonically,
melodically and linguistically by Brazilian popular music and its vast stories,
folklore and rhythms, he is also heavily influenced by music from the Middle
East, Argentina, Cuba and Africa (notably Mali and Madagascar). From the
full gamut of his musical understanding, he expresses his unique vision with
ensembles ranging from string quartets to wind ensembles of varying shapes
About Rita Figueiredo
The musical vein of artist Rita Figueiredo began it’s pulse early on. At age 14, the young girl, born in São Paulo began to study voice. Graduating in 1995 from Universidade Livre de Música in Opera. (Linked to the Sao Paulo State Music School of Tom Jobim) (EMESP).
To further hone in her skills as a musician, she moved from classical to popular music singing school of vocal training and started to study guitar. In her 20’s she was writing songs, recording demos and performing in different jazz clubs and cultural centers in her hometown, Sao Paulo. The first opportunity to launch her original work came in 2011, when she won the Cultural Action Program (ProAC) Award from the Secretary of Culture of Sao Paulo, which fully funded the creation of her first record.
The album received many accolades in the press and in particular made the top 20 best albums of 2013 in Brazil by Ed Felix (Melhores da Música Brasileira) and by Tiago Ferreira (Na Mira do Groove).
In 2015 Rita moved to New York and in 2018 she released her second album entitled "Benji & Rita" with 14 songs in partnership with New York composer, arranger, singer and guitarist Benji Kaplan. The album was very well received by music journalists and many good reviews in the news paper and magazines in Brazil and U.S. The album made the list of top rated albums of Downbeat Magazine in 2019. From 2018 to 2021 she played in several cities in the USA, Brazil and Europe touring with Benji & Rita.
Rita created and produced many animated music videos for many of Benji & Rita's songs during the pandemic. These videos were selected by dozens of festivals around the world and awarded at festivals such as NYC Indie Film Awards (USA), Calcutta International Cult Film Festival (India), Rome Prisma Film Awards (Italy), Nawada International Film Festival (India), Cinemafest (USA), Deep Focus Film Festival (USA) and Funarte Respirarte Award (Brazil).
This year 2023, Rita is producing and recording her new EP with her songs and a new Benji & Rita album to be released in early 2024.