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The BenoitFreeman Project 2

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Album Review

Creatively, David Benoit has had his ups and downs over the years. The pianist/keyboardist has recorded more than his share of forgettable smooth jazz albums, but he has also provided some decent straight-ahead discs that were greatly influenced by Bill Evans (the pianist, not the saxophonist). This 2004 release, however, doesn't fall into either category — Benoit/Freeman Project 2, a collaboration with guitarist Russ Freeman, isn't straight-ahead acoustic jazz, but it isn't an album of mindless "elevator Muzak" either. For the most part, this CD could be described as "smooth jazz with a brain"; pop considerations are a high priority, but at the same time, jazz considerations (spontaneity and improvisation) are not ignored. Benoit/Freeman Project 2 tends to be meatier and more substantial than most of the smooth jazz/NAC releases that Benoit has been a part of, and one of the things that this album has going for it is a more organic production style. Benoit and Freeman, who produced the CD together, don't suffocate their material with excessive production — this time, they're smart enough to let it breathe, and meaningful solos are encouraged rather than discouraged. Most of the tracks are instrumental; one of the exceptions is "Two Survivors," a likable adult contemporary tune that features singer Vince Gill. The country-pop star might seem an unlikely choice for a Benoit/Freeman encounter, but then, Gill was never a hardcore honky tonker à la Buck Owens, Johnny Cash or Lefty Frizzell — Gill has often laced his country with big doses of pop, and he's quite appropriate for an AC tune like "Two Survivors." This album has a few throwaway tracks, but they're the exception instead of the rule — and overall, Benoit/Freeman Project 2 is a cut above most of Benoit's other smooth jazz/NAC outings.


Born: 18 August 1953 in Bakersfield, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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...
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The BenoitFreeman Project 2, David Benoit
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