Full Circle

David Benoit

Peak, 2006

http://www.benoit.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/19/2006

A handful of contemporary jazz artists continue to make meaningful music in their genre, with David Benoit part of that list. On this, the next in his long line of albums, he reunites with his band from 1985's This Side Up to create a solid, if unremarkable, slice of modern (not smooth) jazz.

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While the disc as a whole tends toward the cute - think the Vince Guaraldi trio - Benoit tosses in a red herring by opening with “Cafe Rio,” inspired by Dave Brubeck and winding through some solid piano solos, a slap bass, Latin percussion and some scat singing near the end, all in just four minutes. Had the rest of the record sounded like this, we'd have had a classic.

But the band immediately slows down with “First Day Of School,” which could be the soundtrack to a PBS special of the same name, it's so cute and clinical. “Water to Drink” is the only cover here, but it doesn't offer anything exciting, unlike “Beat Street,” the funkiest jazz I've heard in a while. “Chasing Tides” is another slow, sentimental throwaway, the crap you hear in a dentist's office or on nearly any 80s sitcom. It's a shame the band can veer between that extreme and the originality of “Cafe Rio” and then choose the former.

“Neat With A Twist” is not, while “Katrina's Little Bear” is charming but fluffy. “Yusuke The Ghost” manages to spice things up a tad by being playful and breezy in a good way, but the closer “Monster In The Attic” is equally as solid as the opening song, with electronic drums added to Benoit's piano and some good bass work. About halfway through “Monster,” the band breaks out into an unforced jam and Jeff Lorber enters with an arena-rock-ready synthesizer and Hammond organ that helps the song fade out, while the band keeps a steady beat behind him. It's definitely a break from the norm but comes way too late to save the album.

Although the band is a bit stiff and too many tracks are throwaways, the first and last song and "Beat Street" are worth checking out for fans of modern jazz.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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