Pianist David Benoit wants to introduce fans to his “Heroes”

Published on March 23rd, 2021

By Jim Dail

Virtually all musicians are influenced by the music they heard at some time in their lives, and pianist David Benoit is no exception.

“I listened to all kinds of music growing up and still do, whether it’s jazz, pop, classical,” he said. “I thought it would be fun to see how an album of influential songs would turn out.”

Benoit is certainly well-known in musical circles, having performed with everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Kenny Loggins, as well as been involved on projects with the Walt Disney Corporation, numerous symphonies, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, numerous television shows, including a number of Peanuts TV specials.

Yet, for his first solo album in three years, he chose to turn his attention to music that others composed.

“I tried to pinpoint the songs that mean a lot to me, not just pick out my favorites or songs that were major hits by those other artists,” he said.

For example, the Beatles are represented on the album, but the casual Beatle fan may be surprised by the selection, “She’s Leaving Home,” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club band.

“That was a great pop album and so innovative in terms of getting away from what was typical of pop and rock music then, which was guitars, bass and drums,” he said. “They crafted interesting melodies, stings, brass, things you didn’t see so much in pop. It was incredible music.”

Speaking of pop, the album also features Elton John’s “Your Song” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

“With ‘Your Song,’ the way Elton played on that song was just fantastic,” he said. “That’s my favorite. ‘Human Nature’ was just one of the finest pop songs of the ‘80s and I felt that I needed that on there because it shows another side of me. I also knew that’s what The Wave would want to play on the radio.”

One of Benoit’s biggest heroes is Dave Brubeck, who is also represented.

“He redefined the format and was so super melodic and elegant with his music,” he said. “That’s why I led the record off with ‘Mountain Dance.”

It was a challenge for Benoit because he felt the need to not just give an impression of the song, but get it right.

“The melodies are very difficult,” he said. “Great composers sound beautiful and his music sound gorgeous and I felt I had to play it right. Dave is a great musician, a serious composer.”

Of course, Benoit is well-versed in his craft, even if he is a bit humble when talking about his own compositions and performances. While Benoit has not had his own album out for a few years, he has been heard repeatedly in other areas. Recently, he joined Dave Koz on his “At the Movies” tour, returning to the early days of his career when he was a sideman.

“I was a sideman for about fifteen years, and it was kind of nice to just be able to show up and play without worrying about arrangements, set lists and such,” he said. “Dave and I are such great friends it was great being out there, though of course there are some differences in the way we might do things.

One difference concerns the song list.

“I might not have ended my shows with ‘Carwash,” he laughed.

While “Heroes” does not come out until May, that does not mean it won’t be featured in his early shows.

“I like to get started early and get people excited, sort of use the early shows as a bellwether,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how people react, and it is good to get something new out there.”

Considering that Benoit has worked with great symphonies all over the country, worked with the legendary Charles Schultz, numerous jazz and pop artists, been nominated for five Grammy awards, written a concert concerto and worked on television, what is left for him to do?

“I would still love to do a classical record,” he said.


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