morning sex download: Red Tail Hawk EP

by lydiasee

For the record, I think the production on this EP is spectacular.

Lyrically speaking, Benny Z has a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve. In the past, with a more pared down sound, his style has been almost too vulnerable and diaphanous. This new incarnation of Ben Zanfagna’s music, however, which includes Mike Gruen on Bass, Brett Bashaw on Drums, Alexander Sandman on Guitar/Keys/Production, and Ben on Vocals, Guitar, & Tenor/Soprano Saxophone lends itself better to his style of writing. His straightforward and transparent words are supported more substantially by the multiple tracks of instrumentation and harmony, and the arrangement of said layers is ideal.

The acoustic beginning of “Trees” into the symphonic harmony-ridden climax is an energetic and organic opener, leading into the the 70’s arena acid-rock “Bilderberg” that reminds me, strangely enough of Twin Shadow’s “Castles in the Snow” mixed with Pink Floyd’s whole Dark Side of the Moon (ok I know that’s a crazy comparison but I think it’s the harmonies – “Your Elvis song in my ear That moonlit voice that I hear”/ “All that is now All that is gone All that’s to come”). A tiny hint of an organ on “I Do” is  my favorite little touch, a sweet marriage of sax into a rhodes-ish fade out.

This feels like a tentative taste of what this band is capable of. I’m looking forward to their show on March 12 at the Firehouse to see what else they’ve got up their sleeves.

(photos by lydia see, no use w/o permission)

from the band:

“Songwriter/singer/saxophonist, Benny Zanfagna, bassist/arranger, Mike Gruen, producer/multi-instrumentalist, Alex Sandman and drummer/arranger,Brett Bashaw have teamed up to form “Red Tail Hawk.” All members are Newburyport natives and were friends growing up. According to Benny, “We all studied music formally and independently, toured with national and semi-national acts and came home to reconnect. The result is a culmination of worldly experiences…”
Both Benny and Alex played with the band “Endway” during separate periods. First Benny helped co-write and produce Endway’s sophomore release ‘Action,’ and toured with the band for one year. After being signed with Wind-up Records as the producer/guitarist of “The Rideaways,” Alex joined “Endway” filling the role of bassist and co-writer on Endway’s third release, ‘Running Man’ (each available for free at Among Mike Gruen’s accolades he studied at Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA and has shared the stage with some of the most prominent jazz cats in New England. Brett returned to Newburyport after playing professionally with pianist, Rob Gonzalez.

Zanfagna continues, “We are grateful to one another. Each player brings a unique approach to the songs and we all contribute to the arrangements. It is a rare artistic collaboration and the ceiling is much higher because of this…”

“Red Tail Hawk” will be releasing their debut record in the form of an EP this Spring. The band’s performance of Benny’s songs and Alex’s production create an eclectic mix of roots, rock, world, jazz and psychedelic. Inspired by a love for nature, and passion for living, look for “Red Tail Hawk” everywhere online and at

Purchase tickets online here: or call the Firehouse Box Office directly at 978.462.7336.