Review – “David Benoit And Friends”

August 25, 2019

It is 2019, and David Benoit, the legendary Jazz musician has some new music for your enjoyment. David Benoit And Friends is his 36th studio recording, and for this effort he is featuring some of his contemporaries.

I am sure that you will recognize these names: Dave Koz, Peter White, Lindsey Webster, Marc Antoine, Vincent Ingala. If you know anything about them, they all have their own unique style, and they mesh very nicely within Benoit’s overall album feel. 

When I hear the name David Benoit, though, I immediately think of the track, Linus and Lucy. Yes, that is the classic Peanuts track, and after you hear it for the first time, a Smooth Jazz version seems, well, quite obvious.

“David Benoit And Friends” has eleven tracks, with seven originals and four remakes.

Let’s take a listen!

Review – “David Benoit And Friends”

The set opens with a smooth jam session called Ballad Of Jane Hawk. You will immediately hear the guitar stylings of Peter White. Not to be outdone, Benoit tickles those keys and this is a definite masterclass on how to play the piano with feeling. Throw in those strings underneath with a little taste of the flute, and you have a winner.

Make It Real features Lindsey Webster. She is the unquestioned premier Jazz vocalist on the scene, and her voice lends itself perfectly with the Samba feel of the track. Once again, I am loving the strings as they ride underneath her vocals. Benoit closes out the song with a piano ad-lib that is just poetry in motion.

Dave Koz is up next on Vernazza. This is an ode to the small fishing village in Northern Italy, where Benoit spent some time earlier in the year. There’s always something about Koz’s sax that makes you just want to stop what you are doing and just feel the groove.

Moon and Sand is a remake of the Kenny Burrell track from 1979. Benoit’s father loved Burrell’s sounds, and as you listen, you will agree that Benoit and Marc Antoine did an incredible job with this version. You can’t say enough about Antione’s European style of guitar. This is one of those songs that should be on your dinner party playlist.

If you like that “Big Jazz Band” swing with a taste of Gospel, then you will love Sly Fox. Benoit’s piano is front and center, but that organ completes the song.

How Deep Is The Ocean is an Irving Berlin standard from 1932. There aren’t too many songs from the 1930’s that would sound relevant today, but I guess that is why they call them standards, right? Rick Braun is here to add his trumpet to the mix.

Do you think it is time for a little funk? I think Dave G will satisfy that itch. Vincent Ingala guests on this track and this reminds me of some classic George Duke. The way he incorporates contemporary funk into classical style jazz is a skill that not too many musicians possess. Benoit is on that short list.

Sienna Step is up next. In addition to the piano lead, the bassline really takes center stage, and the drums…well they are the REAL takeaway here. This is a real jam session.

You may recognize this next track. It is called Feel It Still, originally done by Portugal. The Man. I have to say that this version can really stand on its own. While Benoit keeps the melody in tact, he does change it up a little for the jazz heads out there.  I talked about a real jam session regarding the previous song….wait until you get a load of the the last minute of this track!

96-132 Revisited is up next. The original version appeared on Benoit’s recording debut in 1977 on the album Heavier Than Yesterday. The numbers represent BPMs (beats per minute) as the intro clocks in at a smooth 96BPM, the pace then picks up to a brisk 132 BPM. To close it out, he brings it back down to 96.

You got all that? I will tell you one thing, the track will definitely keep your attention.

The set closes out with a reimagine of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. This stripped down version really fits the vibe of the entire album, and I am sure you will appreciate newcomer Justin Cheung on the Cello. This track is a great way to end this stellar album from the legendary David Benoit.

As you listen to this project, you will hear stellar play by the rhythm section, great strings played by some of today’s best musicians, and of course those horns. The overall musicianship on David Benoit And Friends is some next-level goodness.

Do yourself a favor and add a few of these tracks to your favorite playlist.

 

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