After an orchestral CD, some more Peanuts music and an unplugged set paying tribute to his heroes, David Benoit reclaims his stature as one of contemporary jazz’s favorite pianists. In spite of a somewhat new-agey designation, Earthglow is a synthesis of Benoit’s favorite musical styles that lays down his easy-on-the-ears groove and recognizable flourishes, while also stamping his own technique on some new sounds. “Easy Day” and the title track are as good as any ballads in his oeuvre: Benoit always possesses an easy grace while maintaining an inspirational vibe. His piano runs often recall the movement of a slinky cat, and he must know this, because he wrote two compositions of feline flattery: “Sneaky as a Cat” and “Brownie’s Gone,” the latter a sad little ode to a favorite four-legger who ran away.
“Botswana Bossa Nova” and “Will’s Chill” are the centerpieces of the CD, tunes Benoit wrote while holed up in a cabin during a music residency in Northern California. The first speaks for itself, world elements mixed with Brazilian samba, and the second puts a bossa beat with an easy rhythm. “New Creation” is jazzy, and features Benoit exploring several directions via the Rhodes, as he does with “Unbelievable.” “Easy Day” is restful and inspiring, and Benoit finishes with “Freedom at Midnight (The Schroeder Variations),” combining one of his biggest radio hits with his Peanuts muse while slipping in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
Accessible, adventurous and inspiring, Earthglow is one of Benoit’s best projects.