David Benoit – David Benoit and Friends

It would be hard to write the book on Contemporary Jazz without a few chapters on David Benoit. The multi-Grammy nominated and chart-topping piano wizard has enjoyed more than a four-decade career taking chances and following his own intuition. “I look at the big picture and try not to get caught up in the minor details,” reveals the pianist. Unbound by categories and rules, the trailblazer has built an enviable career drawing inspiration from his vast influences which have included jazz, comics, film, Broadway and symphonies, to cite a few.

David Benoit’s free-spirited approach has allowed him to collaborate with such diverse artists as The Rippingtons, Faith Hill, David Sanborn and CeCe Winans. Few artists can say they have performed solo piano for “Peanuts” television movies and specials for over two decades but Benoit has. He also lent his chops in 2015 to the long awaited 3-D animated adaptation of the beloved Charles M. Schulz comic strip.

On August 23, 2019, Shanachie Entertainment will release David Benoit’s 36th recording as a leader and his first solo effort for the label. David Benoit And Friends is an exhilarating escapade of shifting moods, uplifting anthems, virtuosic playing and synergetic interplay that magnifies Benoit’s depth and vision as an artist. From original compositions and tributes to guitar maestro Kenny Burrell and NY Times Best Seller crime novelist Dean Koontz to covers by Irving Berlin, Coldplay and Portugal The Man, Benoit is nothing short of inspiring. “It comes from a very unconventional background on music,” shares the Los Angeles based pianist. “My influences were all over the place from Leonard Bernstein to The Doors.” David Benoit And Friends is produced by drummer Bud Harner who has produced and worked with everyone from George Benson and Barry Manilow, to Jeff Lorber to Keiko Matsui, Lindsey Webster and Lalah Hathaway.

David Benoit And Friends opens with the magnificent opus “Ballad Of Jane Hawk,” featuring guitarist Peter White and flutist Tim Weisberg. As the title suggests, the song was penned for Dean Koontz’ relentless rogue FBI agent and heroine, Jane Hawk. “I am a huge fan of Dean Koontz and so I wrote him a fan letter and he wrote back!” shares Benoit. “He has a reference to me and my ‘Kei’s Song’ in the opening of his Jane Hawk novels so I wanted to return the favor. The scintillating and Latin-tinged “Make It Real” unites Benoit with the young and talented singer/songwriter Lindsey Webster, who has drawn comparisons to Sade and topped the Billboard contemporary jazz charts.

David Benoit’s poetic, transcendent and timeless anthems have a way of permeating your spirit. His majestic “Vernazza” is the perfect example. “Sometimes I draw inspiration from my travels,” he explains. “’Vernazza’ is a small fishing village in Northern Italy and we spent time there last March. It was inspiring.” Benoit gains further inspiration from long-time friend, and saxophonist, Dave Koz. “He is very much a melody maker and all about finding the sweet spot with his audience,” says the pianist. “Through the years, we have learned a lot from one another.” The tender bossa nova “Moon And Sand,” featuring Marc Antoine, is dedicated to guitarist Kenny Burrell who was a favorite of Benoit’s father. “Kenny Burrell was all I ever heard growing up” shares Benoit. “My dad was a guitar player and Kenny was his favorite. I have always wanted to cover ‘Moon And Sand’ and finally got to with Marc. He took it to a whole other place which was beautiful.” The blues “Sly Fox” was co-written by pianist Jeff Lorber and pairs Benoit with a swinging horn section while the euphoric “Dave G” showcases the young saxophonist Vincent Ingala. David Benoit And Friends also highlights two covers including the standard “How Deep Is the Ocean.”

Irving Berlin’s 1930s hit in the hands of Benoit and trumpeter Rick Braun is transformed into haunting and stunning beauty. Benoit also puts his own refreshing spin on Cold Play’s chart-topping hit “Viva La Vida.” The song was inspired by his wife and features a 19-year old cellist from his youth symphony, Justin Cheung. The surprises don’t stop there as Benoit infuses his own elixir into Portugal The Man’s smash hit “Feel It Still,” giving it a Cannonball Adderley/Joe Zawinul treatment. A high point on David Benoit And Friends is the original and burning “Sienna Step.” Benoit, drummer JR Robinson and percussionist Luis Conte bring down the house with their electrifying excursion. The recording also includes a number that dates back to Benoit’s recording debut in 1977 on the album Heavier Than Yesterday. The title “96-132 Revisited” refers to two-metronome markings:  96 for slow and 132 for fast.

David Benoit fell in love with jazz in 1965 after watching a Charlie Brown special on television and hearing the music of Vince Guaraldi. A pioneer and architect of contemporary jazz, Benoit has created a four-decade legacy of delighting fans internationally. Highlights from the chart-topping pianist’s catalogue include the recordings Freedom at Midnight (1987), Waiting for Spring (1989), Shadows (1991), Letter to Evan (1992, a tribute to Bill Evans) and Here’s to You, Charlie Brown: Fifty Great Years (2000). Benoit has also recorded two albums with guitarist Russ Freeman: Benoit/Freeman Project (1994) and 2 (2004). His discography also includes the recording American Landscape (1997) and Orchestral Stories (2005), which featured his first piano concerto and symphonic work. Benoit’s 2012 CD Conversation garnered three Grammy nominations and 2 In Love (2015) joined him with vocalist Jane Monheit. Benoit’s film scores include The Stars Fell on Henrietta (1995), produced by Clint Eastwood, and The Christmas Tree, produced by Sally Field, which was voted ‘Best Score of 1996’ by Film Score Month. So Nice (2017), a collaboration with guitarist Marc Antoine, was Benoit’s first Shanachie recording.

The dynamic artist has served as conductor for numerous symphonies including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Asia America Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. A long-time guest educator with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, he received that organization’s Excellence in Music Award in 2001. Benoit also currently hosts a morning radio show on KKJZ 88.1 FM in Long Beach, CA. In 2018, Benoit was given an honorary doctor’s degree in music from Five Towns College in New York.

David Benoit concludes, “I hope when people hear David Benoit And Friends, they feel joy and passion or are reminded of a great memory. Maybe the music will even be a nice soundtrack to fix a cocktail to.”

Get the album on Amazon.com.

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