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David Benoit

Full Circle

PEAK RECORDS 0888072300156 [43:35]


Cafe Rio (Benoit) [4:18]
First Day of School (Benoit, Brown) [4:08]
Water to Drink (Agua de Beber) (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius De Moraes)[3:57]
Beat Street (Benoit, Lorber)[4:15]
Six P.M. (Benoit) [4:39]
Chasing the Tides (Benoit, Brown)[4:52]
Neat with a Twist (Benoit, Lorber)[5:16]
Katrina’s Little Bear (Benoit) [3:47]
Yusuke the Ghost (Benoit) [3:36]
Monster in the Attic (Benoit) [4:36]
Collective personnel: David Benoit (piano, keyboards, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers, Hammond B3), Jerry Hey, Ron King, Rick Braun (trumpet), Bill Reichenbach (trombone), Dan Higgins (sax, flute), Andy Suzuki (tenor sax), Eugene Groove, Gary Meek (sax), Tim Weisberg (flute), Oscar Castro-Neves, Paul Brown, Pat Kelley, Dwight Sills, Paul Jackson Jr. (guitar), Roberto Vally, Nathan East, Alex Al, Brian Bromberg (bass), Timothy Laundauer (cello), John Robinson, Michael White (drums), Jeff Lorber (drums programming), Luis Conte, Alex Acuna (percussion)
No recording date given – 2005(?)

David Benoit has led a musical life of quite extraordinary variety. As a conductor he has presented works by, amongst others, Bernstein, Copland, Stravinsky and Saint-Saens. He has worked with orchestras such as The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Atlanta Symphony and The Dresden Philharmonic. As a pianist he has performed a number of Claude Bolling’s jazz-influenced suites – such as the Suite For Flute and Jazz Piano and the Suite for Cello and Piano. His compositions include The Peanuts Piano Concerto, written in tribute to Charles Schulz; he has written several film scores; he has worked as a musical director/arranger/conductor with many artists, including Patti Austin, Kenny Rankin and David Sanborn.

This present CD seems to mark Benoit’s return to the territory often described as ‘smooth jazz’. The resultant music is highly competent, played by top-class musicians. It is also oddly characterless. The most interesting tracks are the ones which make most extensive use of Latin rhythms – such as the opener ‘Café Rio’, a jaunty piece with some engaging phrases and patterns; but even here one finds oneself waiting for something which will actually escape from the prevailing patterns, something that will bite, something that will demand more committed attention from the listener. More often than not the track fades out before it happens – though there are exceptions, as in the trumpet and tenor playing of Rick Braun and Andy Suzuki on ‘Six P.M.’

Whitney Balliett famously described jazz as "the sound of surprise". There are, I’m afraid, too few surprises here. There are pleasant melodic runs, there is some impressive, well-honed work from a variety of rhythm sections, but too much of it lacks that affirmation of the individual sensibility which is one of the hallmarks of the very best jazz, in whatever stylistic idiom.

This would doubtless make excellent background music at the right kind of ‘sophisticated’ social gathering. But all the musical surfaces are so well polished, so cleansed of irritants and dirt, that when I try to listen to it attentively I find that my mind keeps being reflected elsewhere, that so high gloss is the finish that the music slips through my grasp.

If ‘smooth jazz’ is a genre that appeals to you, you will doubtless find much to enjoy here. For my own tastes, a couple of listenings to this CD, so highly competent, made me long for some of the roughness, some of the risks (even some of the ‘errors’) of, say, Charlie Parker or Bud Powell, Henry Red Allen or Lester Bowie.

Glyn Pursglove

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