Two Grammy nominees come together for an experience in cool music and romance. David Benoit and Jane Monheit team up for 2 in Love (Concord Records, 2015).
This is Benoit’s first recording with a vocalist. Over the years, he has employed guest vocalists to contribute a token song. Among them are David Pack of the rock group Ambrosia, pop singer Jennifer Warnes and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves. However, 2 in Love is Benoit’s first time giving a vocalist equal billing. Monheit appears on all but two songs.
The lineup is broken into three configurations. On five songs, Benoit plays piano and synthesizer, accompanied by Monheit; Pat Kelly, acoustic and electric guitar; David Hughes, upright and electric bass; Jamey Tate, drums; and Lauren Kosty, percussion. For three songs, it’s Benoit, piano; Monheit; John Clayton, bass; Clayton Cameron, drums; Michelle Suh, violin; Cathi Biagini, cello; and Darryl Tanikawa, contractor. On “Love in Hyde Park,” it’s Benoit, piano; David Hughes, acoustic bass; Tate; and Tim Weisberg, alto flute and C flute. And as he usually does, Benoit goes solo on the finale.
“Barcelona Nights” opens in dynamic fashion. The song has a Latin vibe. Monheit sings with a verve that’s at once soulful and refined. Her voice and Benoit’s piano are the primary focus, but the percussion is key to the salsa mood. The track ends with Monheit in a scat, punctuated by Tate.
“Too in Love” also has a bit of a sassy, salsa feel. While the album title, using the digit “2,” refers to the number of people in love, the lyrics here refer to the degree of adoration. During the middle break, Benoit enjoys one of his more lively solos. He has plenty of room as he puts the piano through several mood changes. As Monheit sings, she confirms that it’s possible for a person to get carried away, or “you can be too in love.”
Benoit has been a star on the jazz scene since the middle 1980s. He’s been a guest of The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman, collaborated with Freeman on the Benoit/Freeman Project, and has scored several installments of the “Charlie Brown” television series. Over the years, he has acquired the reputation as one of the pioneers of what is known as smooth jazz, being among the first to produce original music that fit perfectly into the radio format of the same name. 2 in Love is his 35th recording as a leader.
Monheit emerged in 1998 as first runner-up in the Thelonious Monk Institute’s Vocal Competition. Her debut recording was Never Never Land (N-Coded, 2000).
Benoit penned all original songs on the album, enlisting lyricists Mark Winkler, Lorraine Feather and Spencer Day to co-write some tracks. The lone cover is a medley of Leonard Bernstein’s “Love Theme from Candide” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”