David Benoit

American Landscape

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From his poignant liner notes, David Benoit would have us believe that the wide range of styles he delves into on the majestic American Landscape will take us on an adventure completely new in the pianist's catalog, but it simply expands upon the unique themes he introduced on 1994's Shaken Not Stirred, one of his best ever. These include his expansion into orchestral music, which grew out of his budding film score career: the dusty Western flavors of the title track "American Landscape," for example, actually evolved from of an unused demo for a Kevin Costner movie. The song includes the brilliant touches of Tommy Morgan's harmonica and the swelling London Symphony Orchestra, which dances here not with wolves, but in and around Eric Marienthal's funky sax. The melancholy orchestral intro to "A Personal Story" sounds like it should accompany scenes of heartbreak, but then Benoit throws a curve, easing into a lively trio date. That sort of cheerfulness reaches a fever pitch on the full-blown venture into salsa, "Mr. Rodriguez's Opus," highlighted by the dual energy of Benoit's Latin piano excitement and Jerry Hey's trumpet. The energetic closer "Speed Racer" builds from a soft orchestral intro into a full-on Western horse race between Benoit and banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, then combines a jazz trio with a dramatic orchestral underscore. Benoit's career has always been about those stylistic and thematic surprises popping up as a balance to his sense of jazz-pop fun. American Landscape stands as his most dramatic adventure yet.

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