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Casey Benjamin, Ace Multi-Instrumentalist for Robert Glasper, A Tribe Called Quest, Dead at 45

Casey Benjamin, the talented multi-instrumentalist who worked closely with Robert Gasper and on records by Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, Nas, John Legend, and many more, has died. He was 45.

Benjamin’s management confirmed his death to Rolling Stone and shared a statement from his family: “It is with the deepest sorrow that the Benjamin family shares the heartbreaking news of the passing of Casey Benjamin. Casey was recovering from a recent surgery, and we are still gathering all the facts. We have been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and Casey’s esteemed music community. Casey stayed true to the art of his music, and the energy of his spirit will live on in eternity.”

The family shared an official memorial site for Benjamin, as well.

In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, Glasper said, “Casey was one of the most gifted and talented beings ever. He was the epitome of what it means to be unique and one of a kind. The true meaning of a genius at his craft. There is no Robert Glasper Experiment without him. The world lost a giant and I lost a brother. I’m forever honored to have shared the stage and my life with him.”

Though best known for his work on the alto and soprano saxophone, Benjamin was a versatile multi-instrumentalist and daring experimentalist. He wasn’t afraid to layer effects on his saxophones and frequently jumped between synths and keys (as well as keytar), often pairing the latter with a vocoder.  

In a 2010 video tied to his work with the Robert Glasper Experiment, Benjamin offered some insight into his musical approach, saying, “I tend to like to play in places in the music where you would never expect it. And also to put effects on it. I always like contrast — contrast, to me, is beauty. So, you always think outside of the box.” 

With the Robert Glasper Experiment, Benjamin won two Grammy Awards: First, Best R&B Album, for 2011’s Black Radio, and then Best Traditional R&B Performance for the group’s rendition of Stevie Wonder’s song “Jesus Children of America,” off of 2013’s Black Radio 2

Many of the artists Benjamin worked with over the years shared tributes, like Lupe Fiasco, who wrote, “I can’t even begin to express the deep gratitude and respect.” 

And Derrick Hodge, who played with Benjamin in the Robert Glasper Experiment, called the musician “a true brother and friend,” adding, “Thank you for inspiring me, for being a light in my life, and for your unbelievable influence on the music world. I will carry your smile with me, brother. And we will collectively honor and carry your legacy with us.”

Questlove, who long admired Benjamin, said the musician “allowed Glasper the space to do what I think Glasper does best which is paint colors that otherwise would be a task had Glasper had the job of leading the mission with just one keyboard.”

Born in 1978, Benjamin grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, in New York City, and started playing sax when he was eight. He studied at the prestigious Harlem School of Arts and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art before attending the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, where he met Glasper. 

Along with the Robert Glasper Experiment, Benjamin had his own project, Heavy, alongside the vocalist Nicky Guiland. The duo released several albums, includingJAzzmonEY$$ and First Sessions in 2007 and 2009, before returning in 2021 with the four-track project Hand in Hand

Benjamin’s work with other artists, whether in the studio or on the stage, was extensive. He toured with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, played on Solange’s hit album, A Seat at the Table, and contributed to numerous tracks across A Tribe Called Quest’s final album, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. He also worked with Anderson .Paak, Common, Arcade Fire, Buster Rhymes, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, and many more. 

In a 2019 interview with All About Jazz, Benjamin spoke about drawing from his own life and experiences to imbue his music with a distinct emotional tenor. 


“I play off of a lot of experiences that I had in my life, ever since I was a kid until now, so it’s very unique,” he said. “Everything from not having much as a kid to having my heart broken for the first time to my love of cars and sounds, my travels around the world and meeting people and people dying and losing. All these things. And I tend to not congregate as much in musical circles in terms of people always chatting together and practicing together, doing all these different things together. When it comes to music, I tend to be a loner. There’s so many musicians that just sound like each other. I believe in getting knowledge and wealth, the wealth is in the knowledge, and learning and asking questions. I always wanted to stay to myself in some sort of way, because I felt that it would be the most organic way to play music.”

This story was updated at 4:43 p.m. ET with a statement from Benjamin’s family.

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