One of the more popular performers in the idiom somewhat inaccurately called “contemporary jazz,” David Benoit has mostly performed light melodic background music, what critic Alex Henderson has dubbed “new age with a beat.” Benoit has done a few fine jazz projects (including a tribute to Bill Evans and a collaboration with Emily Remler) but most of his output for GRP has clearly been aimed at the charts. He studied composition and piano at El Camino College and, in 1975, played on the soundtrack of the film Nashville. After recording with Alphonse Mouzon and accompanying singer Gloria Lynne, he was signed to the AVI label when he was 24, recording sets that paved the way for his later output. In 1986, Benoit signed as a solo artist with GRP, a relationship that would last until 2003. Albums like 1989’s Waiting for Spring and 1999’s Professional Dreamer showcase his smooth, lyrical style, while projects like his 2000 tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts scores, Here’s to You, Charlie Brown!: 50 Great Years!, demonstrate where his own tastes lie. A decade after their first joint venture, Benoit and Russ Freeman collaborated on Benoit/Freeman Project 2, released by the Concord-associated label Peak in 2004. For 2005’s Orchestral Works he was joined by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and members of the Asia America Symphony Orchestra. He released two studio albums including Full Circle in 2006 and Standards, which appeared later that same year. In 2008, Benoit paid tribute to some of his musical idols with the album Heroes. The album saw him covering songs by Elton John, the Beatles, Dave Brubeck, and others. Two years later, Benoit delivered the Clark Germain-produced electronica-inflected album Earthglow, and in 2012, he returned with Conversation, which featured the classical trio-meets-jazz-trio title track taken from his “Music for Two Trios” suite.
David Pack’s Napa Crossroads
In 2014, Benoit contributed to former Ambrosia guitarist David Pack’s Napa Crossroads set with Alan Parsons, Ray Manzarek, Larry Carlton, Mindi Abair, and others.
2 in Love
Benoit shifted focus on his next outing. Deciding to record an all-originals vocal album, he collaborated with lyricists Lorraine Feather, Mark Winkler, and Spencer Day. Released in the summer of 2015, 2 in Love featured Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Jane Monheit.