Casey Benjamin, two-time Grenadian GRAMMY Award-winning jazz musician, passes

Casey Benjamin, two-time Grenadian GRAMMY Award-winning jazz musician.
Photo by Gentle Benjamin

Two-time Grenadian GRAMMY award-winning jazz musician Casey Benjamin died on March 30 in Maryland, his father Gentle Benjamin said. Casey was 45.

Grenadian-born Gentle Benjamin – the producer of the defunct, long-running, New York-based Caribbean TV cultural program, Culture Share – said Casey, also known as “Stutzmcgee,” was a first-generation New Yorker, whose mother was Panamanian-born Julieta Benjamin.

Benjamiin told Caribbean Life on Tuesday that Casey died from pulmonary thromboembolism, and that he had received his GRAMMYs with the band Robert Glasper Experiment in 2013 and 2015.

Benjamin said Casey began showing an interest in jazz at the tender age of 4, started playing the saxophone at 8 and began performing at 12.

Growing up in legendary Jamaica, Queens, home of “Jamaica funk,” “Casey was taken under the wings and mentored by renowned musicians such as Weldon Irvine, Denzell Miller, Bernard Wright, Donald Blackman and Bill Jacobs,” Benjamiin said.

From there, he said Casey attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art, and the Performing Arts.

As a student, Benjamin said Casey received first place presidential scholar in the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts. This award was presented to him at the Whitehouse by President Bill Clinton.

Benjamin said Casey’s attendance to the New School University/Mannes Jazz Program “allowed him to forge a working relationship with his mentors and professors,” some of whom included Joe Chambers, Reggie Workman, Vincent Herring, Buster Williams and the late Betty Carter.

At 14, Benjamin said “Casey had the opportunity to play” with the late Grover Washington on WNBC TV-NY, and was selected on two occasions to perform and record two CDs in Los Angeles with the GRAMMYS “all American High School GRAMMY Band.”

Benjamin said that, at 20, Casey assumed the role of musical director for Project Logic, with DJ Logic, a turntablist, whose percussive use of the turntable has graced the records of Medeski, Martin & Wood, as well as his own CDS.

Besides Casey’s regular work with Project Logic, Benjamin said he also performed, toured and/or recorded with, among others, such as Heavy D, Kenny Green of Intro, Mikki Howard, Tony Dofat, Bilal, Angie Stone, Ledisi, DJ Spinna, Wycleff Jean, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and her sister, and P. Diddy.

Benjamin said Casey also appeared on Ellen Degeneras, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno and David Letterman shows.

“Casey’s eclectic musical knowledge, coupled with his ability to play multiple instruments, had opened the door to live recreations of classic hip hop beats for MC’s to rhyme over,” Benjamin said.

He said Casey performed on many US and international tours, and that his diverse musical talent led him to form the group Heavy with Nicole Guiland. Benjamin said Heavy was a fusion of soul, rock and pop, “garnering world-wide buzz.”

While working with Heavy, Benjamin said Casey was also writing and performing with artists Mos Def and Q-tip. His first solo album was released in 2012, Benjamin said.

“I have been there for him 100 percent in every way possible in the last 45 years of his life,” Benjamin said. “I have been documenting him all his life.

“I can assure you, Casey loved his cultural background and heritage,” he added. “Casey was a very easy person to get along with. He was not an arrogant individual.”

Cheryl Vincent – a popular Grenadian-born, Brooklyn-based, cultural figure, artiste and calypsonian – expressed “deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to Gentle Benjamin and his family on the loss of his beloved son, Casey Benjamin, a two-time GRAMMY Award-winning and accomplished jazz musician, who has worked with some of the industries’ top musicians and artists.

“I’m so heartbroken by this loss,” she said, adding that she “had the privilege of meeting Casey a few years ago at one of our Quake USA events. He was so cool and humble.

“SIP (sleep in peace) Casey,” Vincent continued. “You’ve left an indelible mark on the hearts of people all over the world whom you have touched with your music and personality.

“To your dad Gentle Ben, may you be comforted by all the wonderful memories you have of him, and knowing that he made such a positive impact the world over,” she said.

Casey’s funeral and celebration of life will take place this Saturday, April 13, 9 a.m., at Mt. Olivet Church of Hollis, 202-03 Hollis Ave., St. Alban’s, NY 11412.

Casey’s body will be interred at Pinelawn Cemetery, followed by a “Celebration of Life” at The Royal Palm, in Farmingdale, NY.