Saxophone phenom Lakecia Benjamin likes a little bit of variety with where she plays and she’s not too picky.
Travel comes with the territory of being a touring musician and Benjamin has played on four continents. Sometimes, she gets a show in a major city. Other times, she finds herself in little, out of the way places.
The Brooklyn-based musician, who performs Saturday night during Fund for the Art’s Wine & Jazz Music Festival on the lawn at the University of Charleston, said, “I kind of go where the coin is, wherever there’s interest.”
She said, “I’ve gone to countries that don’t see that much jazz and others that have these programs to make it flourish more.”
Benjamin never entirely knows what to expect. In some places, the crowds have heard of her and they stand near the stage because they know her music. They’re at the show to see her, but that’s not always her favorite kind of crowd.
“For me, it’s sometimes fun just to introduce myself to people and just feel the energy of that newness,” she said.
Benjamin won’t be exactly an unknown when she performs Saturday, but some people may know her better for the company she’s kept than her own music.
The saxophonist and band leader has performed with a laundry list of musicians including Alicia Keys, The Roots, Kool & the Gang, Stevie Wonder and comedian/singer Craig Robinson, best known for his work as Darryl Philbin on “The Office.”
She also performed at the 2009 presidential inauguration for President Barack Obama and returned again to play at the presidential ball in 2013.
“That first time everyone was so hyped up,” she said. “It was such a wonderful moment. It was amazing to be part of history.”
Benjamin’s latest album, her third, is “Rise Up,” which was released in 2018. The record still feels fresh to her, though she laughed that people often ask her what’s next?
“I was asked that the other night before a show,” she said. “I told them the show was next.”
The hunger for the public to get new music is insatiable, and to keep working, she said, artists have to keep new material coming out.
“There’s a bit of a schedule to it,” she said. “But you kind of always have to have a product. If you don’t have a product, you’re not in the market. If you’re not in the market, you’re not getting work.”
Fans don’t necessarily need to reduce their demands, Benjamin said, but she thought audiences could take more time with new music before moving on to the next new thing.
“You want them to get a grasp of what you’ve done, enjoy it and maybe put more value onto it,” she said.
For Benjamin, new music gets written in chunks. She said she’ll have six or seven months in a row when she feels more creative and more like writing music, which are often followed by a lull that lasts almost as long.
“I get bursts of creativity,” she said. “But I don’t worry that much when I’m not writing new stuff. Usually, when that happens, I just play.”
Playing music is good enough, really. Writing and recording is really only a part of her career and maybe not even the best part.
“I like getting in front of a crowd that’s there for a good time,” she said.
Music is supposed to more fun than work.