Taking a well deserved but admittedly commercially risky breather from his usual brand of smooth jazz, Tim Weisberg's second Fahrenheit Records release, Undercover, chronicles his longtime musical partnership and friendship with pianist David Benoit, drawing upon their mutual love for jazz, pop and classical muses like Herbie Mann, Henry Mancini, Van Morrison, Gershwin, even Debussy -- all of whom inspired them to become musicians in the first place. The result of this mostly first- and second-take labor of love -- on which the label afforded them full creative freedom from radio play list requirements -- plays like an intimate, unplugged free-spirited club date where both Weisberg and Benoit check their accolades and trademark sounds at the door and just jam for the hell of it. Backed by the relentless grooving of bassist Ken Wild, drummer John Ferraro and percussionist Brad Dutz, the two seem to have the most fun paying homage to Weisberg's hero Mann on Undercover's lone original track, the Latin-percussion flavored shuffle "Herbie's Blues" (whose thick organ vamp conjures memories of "The Sidewinder"); "Viva Tirado," a Gerald Wilson Big Band number with Benoit's Doors-like Hammond B-3 pounding; and the sensuous, bass-propelled "Comin' Home Baby," from Mann's Live at the Village Gate, featuring some no holds barred, '60s-flavored flute and Fender Rhodes harmonizing. Weisberg fans who feel his pop efforts sell his improvisational abilities short will snap out of their funks as he aggressively keeps up with Kenny Rankin's jaunty scat and a jazz trio effect on "Moondance," as well as the hardcore fusion style of "Ballad of the Whales," from the Star Trek IV soundtrack, co-penned by Russell Ferrante. Weisberg and Benoit also acknowledge their individual careers with blasts from the smooth jazz past, most notably a flute-led rendering of the pianist's elegant radio staple "Kei's Song."
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran