Though he's skirted around in various genres, for Full Circle, as the title suggests, David Benoit returns to where he started: contemporary jazz. With the same set of musicians in the same studio as the ones who were used on the 1985 release This Side Up, Benoit plays his piano expertly through all ten tracks on the album (and only one, "Aqua de Beber," by Jobim and de Moraes, is a cover). It is, in short, smooth jazz at its finest, which means a lot of horns, a happily funky bass, pretty breaks, and a whole lot of production. It's all very clean and safe, and even though there are many sections in which solos appear to be happening, everything's so controlled and accurate that it seems as if it were all written out in precise black notes anyway. If nothing else, this attests to the expertise and talents of the musicians who Benoit has on Full Circle (himself included), like keyboardist Jeff Lorber, producer and guitarist Paul Brown, percussionist Luis Conte, and bassist Nathan East. The songs are romantic, poignant, and still fun, and Benoit and company are able to make the music and the genre come alive with their phrasing and runs, bringing some step into the songs -- not enough for dancing, perhaps, but certainly enough to get the groove going a bit, like in the playful, summery "Yusuke the Ghost" or the Brubeck-inspired "Café Rio," which keeps things from getting boring or maudlin. Yes, inevitably there are many moments of extreme sentimentality, but that just comes with the smooth jazz territory. Is it Thelonious Monk? No, certainly not. But for contemporary jazz lovers, Full Circle should definitely satisfy.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown