David Benoit

Professional Dreamer

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The pairing of smooth jazz's premier veteran pianist and trumpeter/producer Rick Braun is remarkable. The six tracks produced by the latter offer a unique contrast between thick, hip-hoppy bass grooves and Benoit's peppy, angst-free ivory musings. On the in-your-face "Rejoyce," Benoit's swirling, high-register melody combines with Pat Kelley's Wes Montgomery-like electric licks (and Benoit's own Hammond B-3 harmony coloring) for a floating ride above a jumpy retro-soul rhythm. The underpinnings are even chunkier on "Jump Start," which finds Benoit's piano and Andy Suzuki's playful alto making light, bluesy conversation over a throbbing hip-hop pattern. Braun also gives Benoit space here for some lower-toned piano improvisations. Braun indeed lets Benoit be Benoit on the graceful ballad "Something You Said," whose melody -- enhanced by Marc Antoine's tender acoustic guitar harmony -- glides over a sparse, easy shuffling percussion scheme. Braun mostly plays keyboards, but picks up his muted trumpet to go strutting with Benoit's joyous exclamations over a laid-back but still pulsating groove as if they were joining "Miles After Dark." Longtime Benoit fans who fear change can rest assured; the four remaining tunes produced by the pianist and longtime engineer Clark Germain are vintage. "Golden Gate" and "Dad's Room" (a sweeping film score like tribute to Benoit's ailing father) are simple and sweet, orchestrally enhanced piano reflections, while "Gothic Jazz Dance" combines Benoit's equal loves for pop, chamber music (the hypnotic piano flurries in the intro), and Brazilian rhythms.

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