David Benoit

2 in Love

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On his 35th album as a leader, pianist and composer David Benoit changed up his game. Remarkably, 2 in Love is the very first time in his long career that he's worked with a vocalist on an entire album. His chosen collaborator is Jane Monheit, one of the most celebrated mainstream jazz singers. All but one of these ten songs are originals co-written with three different lyricists: Lorraine Feather, Mark Winkler, and Spencer Day. Produced by the pianist, 2 in Love was cut live in the studio -- a daunting prospect for most contemporary vocalists. But Monheit is no ordinary singer. Check her delivery on the knotty, Latin-tinged opener "Barcelona Nights." She glides through the changes and imbues her canny phrasing with just a hint of samba, with each articulated syllable entrenched in the song's groove. The sultry passion in her utterance is complemented beautifully by Pat Kelly's nylon-string guitar in the bridge. The title track is a swinging bossa with charging piano and hand percussion. Monheit has demonstrated throughout her career that her grasp on the form is both expert and soulful. On "Dragonfly," a lithe country-esque waltz, she pulls back, but just enough to let the addition of a violin and cello color the parlor room feel of Benoit's melody. "Fly Away" is beautifully realized cinematic pop, while "Love Will Light a Way" and "Something's Gotta Give" offer distinct sides of popular music's theatrical side. There are two instrumentals on the set as well. "Love in Hyde Park" is a stripped-down yet elegant -- and ultimately preferable -- version of "A Moment in Hyde Park," which first appeared on Love Is Like a Samba (where the pianist was accompanied by an orchestra). This version, arranged for quartet, features flutist Tim Weisberg, who adds an exotic, breezy texture atop Benoit's shimmering pianism. The closer is a solo piano medley of Leonard Bernstein's "Love Theme from Candide" and Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," affectionately rendered with grace and care. On 2 in Love, Benoit couldn't have chosen a more desirable collaborator than Monheit. Her openness to the range of material he offers in beautifully crafted songs is matched only by her command of their languages.

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