David Benoit – Conversation – Heads Up International , 36:10 [5/29/2012] ****1/2:
(David Benoit – piano, keyboards, orchestra arrangements/conducting; David Pack – guitars, orchestrations; Pat Kelley – guitar; David Hughes – bass; Jamey Tate – drums; Brad Dutz – percussion; David Sills – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jeff Golub – guitar; June Benoit – violin; Tim Weisberg – flute, piccolo; Yun Tang – concert master, violin; Michelle Wood – violin; Eleanor Dunbar – violoin; Xiang Wang – viola; Ilona Geller – viola; Cathy Biagini – cello; Sara Sith – annuai, trumpet; Robert Theis – piano)
David Benoit’s career is multi-faceted. After studying piano theory/composition, orchestration and film scoring, his initial foray into the music business included stints as musical director and conductor for Lainie Kazan, Ann-Margret and Connie Stevens. He established himself as a contemporary jazz artist with the release of Freedom At Midnight in 1987 (which peaked at #5 on the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart). Subsequent releases included Waiting For Spring (#1 on the Billboard Top Jazz Album chart), and Letter to Evan (homage to Bill Evans). His memorial to cartoonist Charles M. Schultz (Here’s To You Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years) expanded his audience.
Benoit has performed for three former U.S. presidents, and collaborated with The Rippingtons, Kenny Loggins, Patti Austin, David Lanz, Cece Winans, David Sanborn and Brian McKnight. His capacity to intermingle jazz and orchestral arrangements is intuitive, creating a great demand for his services. He has been nominated for five Grammy awards and serves as the musical director for the Asia America Symphony Orchestra and the Asia America Youth Orchestra.
Benoit’s latest album, Conversation, is a lush rhythmic assortment of contemporary jazz. The opening track (“Napa Crossroads Overture”) sets a decidedly cinematic tone with its sweeping flourishes and elegant texture. Within the lyrical piano and graceful orchestral accompaniment, Benoit sustains an emphatic tempo. This project features the pianist performing nearly all of the keyboards as well. Adopting a seventies bossa nova ambiance, “Feelin’ It” is agile and fluid with heady piano runs and a prominent solo on tenor saxophone by David Sills. Benoit’s arrangement dynamics energize the Vince Guaraldi-like number, “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid” (from the movie score by Theodore Shapiro). Blues guitarist Jeff Golub contributes an explosive rock line that is framed by the muscular piano chords.
With a great feel for orchestration, songs unfold with subtlety, and forceful resonance. “Kei’s Song Redux” utilizes a string opening to set up a beautiful melodic interpretation. On cuts like “Sunrise On Mansion Row”, elements of modern American classical music are explored with rolling piano accents and soprano saxophone connotation. Benoit’s playing is versatile and ferocious on “Q’s Motif” with blistering bass piano and synthesizer. The intensity level permeates all of this composition, including the straight jazz breaks. Benoit throws in some discordant notes to add a different touch. This is more than smooth jazz. “Let’s Get Ready” is up tempo jazz with a quintet lineup that is percolating. The final track combines trios (classical and electric jazz) in a dizzying array of musical styles.
Conversation is another great album by a brilliant musician.
TrackList: Napa Crossroads Overture; Feelin’ It; Diary Of A Wimpy Kid; Kei’s Song Redux; Sunrise On Mansion Row; You’re Amazing; Q’s Motif; Let’s Get Ready; Conversation (From Music For Two Lovers Trios)
Relief: A Benefit For The Jazz Foundation Of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund – Mack Avenue Music Group
Mack Avenue releases a great album to benefit an important cause.