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David Benoit - Benoit/Freeman Project 2

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David Benoit
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Peak Records


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Creatively, David Benoit has had his ups and downs over the years. The pianist/keyboardist has recorded more than his share of forgettable smooth jazz albums, but he has also provided some decent straight-ahead discs that were greatly influenced by Bill Evans (the pianist, not the saxophonist). This 2004 release, however, doesn't fall into either category -- Benoit/Freeman Project 2, a collaboration with guitarist Russ Freeman, isn't straight-ahead acoustic jazz, but it isn't an album of mindless "elevator Muzak" either. For the most part, this CD could be described as "smooth jazz with a brain"; pop considerations are a high priority, but at the same time, jazz considerations (spontaneity and improvisation) are not ignored. Benoit/Freeman Project 2 tends to be meatier and more substantial than most of the smooth jazz/NAC releases that Benoit has been a part of, and one of the things that this album has going for it is a more organic production style. Benoit and Freeman, who produced the CD together, don't suffocate their material with excessive production -- this time, they're smart enough to let it breathe, and meaningful solos are encouraged rather than discouraged. Most of the tracks are instrumental; one of the exceptions is "Two Survivors," a likable adult contemporary tune that features singer Vince Gill. The country-pop star might seem an unlikely choice for a Benoit/Freeman encounter, but then, Gill was never a hardcore honky tonker à la Buck Owens, Johnny Cash or Lefty Frizzell -- Gill has often laced his country with big doses of pop, and he's quite appropriate for an AC tune like "Two Survivors." This album has a few throwaway tracks, but they're the exception instead of the rule -- and overall, Benoit/Freeman Project 2 is a cut above most of Benoit's other smooth jazz/NAC outings. ~ Alex Henderson

1) Palmetto Park (04:01)
2) Via Nueve (05:17)
3) Montecito (04:39)
4) Club Havana (05:37)
5) Two Survivors (05:03)
6) Samba (04:48)
7) Moon Through the Window (04:47)
8) Struttin' (04:41)
9) Stiletto Heels (04:12)
10) Waiting For the Stars to Fall (03:32)

Benoit/Freeman Project 2
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Benoit/Freeman Project 2 | David Benoit