David Benoit plays pop-jazz. He plays jazz. He conducts an orchestra and even released an orchestral CD in 2005. He plays Peanuts music. With Heroes, Benoit plays up to his strength with an acoustic, unplugged trio setting where the vibrancy and timbre of his Steinway rings glorious. You’ll recognize plenty, whether it’s the first notes of Dave Grusin’s “Mountain Dance,” the uptempo blues of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” or the playful, cascading piano runs in Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” Benoit takes Elton John’s “Your Song” and rearranges the melody while keeping its flavor intact. He does the same on “Never Can Say Goodbye,” gently turning an R&B staple into a jazz classic complete with grand flourishes.
Benoit digs into classic jazz with Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk” and Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father.” He absolutely swings on Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debbie” and Oscar Peterson’s “You Look Good to Me,” and he salutes the Beatles with a spare piano/violin/stings arrangement of “She’s Leaving Home” that features the Asia America Symphony Orchestra, which he conducts. Benoit even throws in an original, “A Twisted Little Etude,” that manages to stay true to the CD’s title by paying homage to Brubeck and the familiar quintuple time of “Take Five.”