In another inspired duo, ubiquitous pianist David Benoit teams with hot producer Rick Braun (who is becoming the Sean "Puffy" Combs of modern jazz) for Professional Dreamer (GRP3P-90142; 47:04), Benoit's most expressive and inventive work in years. Benoit shakes loose some offbeat blue licks on the strutting album-opener "Why Not!" with a relaxed, cool veneer-and takes off from there. Standout performances include the uplifting melody of "Something You Said," augmented by the inspired play of Jimmy Johnson on singing bass and Marc Antoine with his stunning French/flamenco strum, and the meditative, blossoming "Dad's Room," which builds layers upon the raw emotion of a simple piano motive. The classically wrought "Gothic Jazz Dance" is another highlight, boasting dramatically romantic piano play which morphs into a "Moondance"-like swing. The arrangements throughout are crisp and revealing, placing Benoit's expressive piano work- with its diverse palette of dynamic emotions and colors-squarely in the spotlight, where it has always belonged.