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David Benoit

With his measured and lyrical style, pianist, composer, and arranger David Benoit is one of the architects of the contemporary jazz sound. Since his emergence in the fusion era of the late '70s, Benoit has been at the forefront of the crossover jazz movement. Building upon the influence of Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, and Vince Guaraldi, he broke through with 1987's Grammy-nominated Every Step of the Way, and has scored numerous Top Ten contemporary jazz albums, including 1990's Inner Motion, 2003's Right Here, Right Now, 2010's Earthglow, and 2019's David Benoit and Friends. There have also been equally potent collaborations with Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons, Dave Koz, Marc Antoine, Brian Bromberg, and Jane Monheit, among others. While small group productions are his main focus, he has worked on big-band and orchestral projects, including as a member of the GRP All-Star Big Band. He showcased both sides of his artistry on 2022's A Midnight Rendezvous. Born in Bakersfield, California in 1953, Benoit took classical piano lessons in his teens. After high shool, he studied composition and piano at El Camino College and also learned film scoring at UCLA. Along with work as musical director for singer Lainie Kazan, by the mid-'70s he was picking up interesting gigs, including playing on the soundtrack to director Robert Altman's film Nashville. He also recorded with Alphonse Mouzon and accompanied singer Gloria Lynne before making his solo debut with 1977's Heavier Than Yesterday on the Blue Moon label. A handful of similarly funk-, disco-, and fusion-heavy albums followed, including 1980's Can You Imagine and 1983's Digits, all of which pointed to his future crossover sound. In 1986, Benoit signed as a solo artist with GRP and quickly picked up a Grammy nomination for 1987's Every Step of the Way. More well-received albums followed, including 1989's Waiting for Spring and 1999's Professional Dreamer, all of which showcased his smooth, lyrical style. He also contributed to the label's Big Band albums, including 1992's Grammy-nominated GRP All-Star Big Band. In 2000, he showcased his affection for pianist Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts scores with the tribute album Here's to You, Charlie Brown!: 50 Great Years! 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. 2006 saw the release of two studio albums with Full Circle in 2006 and Standards. In 2008, Benoit paid tribute to some of his musical idols with 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. 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. 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 June 2015, 2 in Love featured Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Jane Monheit. She was also featured heavily on Believe, a Christmas recording that appeared just four months later. In 2017, Benoit paired with guitarist Marc Antoine for So Nice! on Shanachie Records. Also that year, he delivered the solo piano date The Steinway Sessions and topped the contemporary jazz chart appearing on Dave Koz's 20th Anniversary Christmas. In 2019 Benoit teamed up with saxophonists Dave Koz and Vincent Ingala, guitarists Peter White and Marc Antoine, and vocalist Lindsey Webster for the album David Benoit & Friends. A Midnight Rendezvous arrived in 2022 and marked Benoit's first big-band recording under his own name.
© Matt Collar /TiVo
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Discography

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