For someone who exhibits striking presence and showmanship onstage, alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin’s path to being a professional musician seems surprisingly-almost unbelievably-incidental. “As a kid, I always thought that being a musician was just something that everybody did,” says Benjamin, 28. It wasn’t until she struggled to make financial ends meet as a student at Manhattan’s the New School that it finally dawned on her she could make a career out of playing music.
After tightening her hustle, Benjamin landed gigs with hip-hop and R&B stars such as Missy Elliott and Alicia Keys. Those experiences greatly informed her charming 2012 debut, Retox (Motéma). When Benjamin details the motivation behind that disc, she sounds as nonchalant as she did about becoming a musician. “People don’t believe me but I never intended to release a CD or start a band,” she explains. “I just thought that if I had a CD it would be cool.”