One of the nicest surprises of this young year is a departure for one of the most established names in contemporary jazz. On his 22nd album, esteemed keyboardist David Benoit applies Fuzzy Logic (GRP/Verve 314589079-2) and takes a left turn away from his signature ballads and synth-string-driven pop confections. Instead, listeners are treated to elemental arrangements of rootsy soul, funk and retro-jazz, fueled by Benoit's expert finger work and hooky songwriting.
Well-placed horns populate the background here, rising steadily against a rolling, ragging piano line on the bustling "Snap!" and giving chase to a funky rhythm section on the meaty "War of the S.U.V's." Elsewhere Benoit employs snaking woodwinds for the sparse, lovely jazz ballad "Reflections," and digs in himself on Hammond B-3 for the bluesy, earthy title tune. Every choice here is fresh and fun-from a mysterious, bass-grooving cover of Smash Mouth's "Then the Morning Comes" to "Tango in Barbados," which pits a postmodern house-music rattle against a Latin-percussive stomp as Benoit cuts an elegant piano figure. Throughout, Benoit's play is full of energy and invention-he's clearly having fun. You will too.