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David Benoit: Standards

This five-year-old recording was made at one of the world’s great studios, Ocean Way in Hollywood, by an unidentified engineer. It was released once before, on the short-lived Vertical Jazz label, and has now been remastered for Kind of Blue.

For David Benoit, a popular exponent of smooth jazz with five Grammy nominations, Standards represents an attempt to go, at least temporarily, straight. The rich, incisive sound (by that anonymous engineer) is a plus, and so is the presence of bassist Brian Bromberg, whose chops are getting famous and whose quick-on-quick solos are always fun.

Benoit has chops, too, and the most successful outings here are pure celebrations of speed and surface flash (Neal Hefti’s “Cute,” Oscar Peterson’s “Cakewalk”). But when Benoit attempts pieces like “Django” and “I Loves You, Porgy,” he places himself in the company of the greatest jazz pianists-and suffers. His renderings of these iconic melodies are literal and rote, and his overall concepts for great songs like “Stardust” and “Some Other Time” are conventional to the point of emotional detachment; pretty rather than beautiful.

Originally Published