For three decades, the GRAMMY®-nominated pianist/composer/ arranger David Benoit has reigned supreme as one the founding fathers of contemporary jazz. But, like an actor who has been known primarily for one role, he wanted to show other dimensions of his artistry, influenced by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach, Dave Grusin and Leonard Bernstein.
“I’ve done records where I had a token vocal tune, all the way back to my first album,” Benoit says. “But I never did an entire record [with vocals]. So the thought here was to do something really different.”
The result is Benoit’s thirty-fifth recording as a leader and his first with a vocalist. 2 In Love, set for release on June 16, 2015 via Concord Records, features Jane Monheit, the GRAMMY®- nominated, cool-toned chanteuse from New York, who burst on the scene in 1998 as the first runner-up in the Thelonious Monk International Vocalist Competition.
“Concord suggested Jane Monheit,” Benoit says. “She was the perfect vocalist. I like to make records a certain way: I prefer to go in live and record it all at once. And a lot of vocalists can’t do that: they need to edit, fix and use auto-tune. But Jane doesn’t need to do any of those things. Many of the keys were difficult, but she sang everything live. Jane also has a background in Broadway, which is another part of my lexicon that I’ve not explored. She was up to the task and easy to work with. She made it a complete, perfect package.”
Along with Monheit, Benoit also enlisted the help of three lyricists: Mark Winkler, Lorraine Feather and Spencer Day. “Mark is my long-time collaborator,” says Benoit. “And I’ve known Lorraine (daughter of jazz critic Leonard Feather) for thirty-five years. Then, there’s Spencer Day: I was really impressed with him. What a nice, young man and fantastic singer. He brought some new blood to the table.” This terrific triad breathed lyrical life into Benoit’s songs and helped showcase Monheit’s considerable skills as an interpreter. “I met them all,” she says. “They did great work and made it very, very easy for me to do my job.”