David Benoit — Earthglow

Apr. 12, 2010

Artists from all walks and of all sorts always have special moments and special places that serve as their catalyst and motivation for their respective creations, be they writers, producers, musicians, etc. Five-time Grammy-nominated renowned contemporary jazz pianist David Benoit found the ultimate in his own peace of mind by retreating to the mountains near Saratoga, CA, to spark the first two tunes of his upcoming latest release, Earthglow, scheduled to hit the streets on April 20.

Full of the energy and shine that have always defined the artist as one of the most acclaimed for well over 20 years, Benoit was able to pen the opening track, the rousing “Botswana Bossa Nova,” and a cut he says was influenced by the Black-Eyed Pea will.i.am, “Will’s Chill” (the latter also bearing a nice Latin/bossa touch). Those two tracks served as the launching pad for this delightfully sharp and tasteful endeavor, one that he claims is a first for him, as it shines a light on a global music concept.

Pointing to the high energy hybrid of old school soul-jazz and world beat textures and rhythms of the opening track, Benoit states, “I loved the world mix of exotic ethnic percussions, African voices along with Brazilian beats.” Borrowing from that energy, he would later sit down and compose the rest of these goodies, quite a few at his home studio in Palos Verdes, CA.

With guests like Jeff Kashiwa, Tim Weisberg, Rick Braun, and Pat Kelley and a determination to depart from the use of other writers and producers, Benoit sets out to place an indelible stamp on this project that has few rivals in its precise concept and execution.

Tunes like “Unbelievable” never venture far from some good ol’ funk, smooth jazz, and soul elements, yet add a sweet layer of that exoticism that only world music and the tell-tale touch of Benoit’s agile fingers can conjure up, even as this is the first time Benoit has completely traveled this road. It’s obvious that this was just one more challenge to be met by the pianist, and it was met…quite effectively.

There are far too many examples of how well this album is produced to single out each and every one. Every tune here has its own very distinctive personality, and they all belong to Benoit in every sense of the word “belong.” He says of this refreshingly new venture, “I wanted the album to have that edgy, chill sound, with long loops and lots of samples, with a little piano in the mix.” Mission accomplished. There are distinct differences between the title track and “New Creation,” for example, as well as between the cool “Easy Day” and the jazzy/bluesy slick stealth of “Sneaky As A Cat.” Then, there’s the killer mix of his classic “Freedom At Midnight” and Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” in a piece called “Freedom At Midnight (The Schroeder Variations).” The piece is done as if the “Peanuts” cartoon character, Schroeder, was playing it. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that Benoit fans will find this to be so very cool. All different, all with the same irresistible appeal of a Benoit cut.

Earthglow is clear evidence that David Benoit is a long way from his finish line, and that’s cause enough for a broad, glowing smile from us all. — Ronald Jackson