That's quite a tie, got great hair and you've got a lot of class!
Now long before I began exploring the backlog of GRP’s releases from the 80’s and early 90’s, David Benoit’s name came up more than a few times on local FM jazz circuit. He’s since been graced with said crown of smooth jazz, a somewhat nasty moniker with genre purists that dismisses today’s overproduced, sequenced soft or light commercial radio jazz. But if you look far enough in anyone’s discography, you’ll find some gems in there, and Shadows could be considered one, and a high point of his time at GRP.
Benoit quickly established his sound while at GRP through his signature elegant, graceful grand piano sound against a curtain of strings. The album cover of Benoit in monochrome, sports a luminous paisley tie forecasting insight to the content of the album’s color within. The separate worlds here display your template GRP jams of this time or contemporary pop-jazz on one end and cinematic Grusin-style jazz on the other, which will appeal to those who disparage commercial jazz. That’s probably why Benoit fits in nicely at GRP, whose released a good amount of albums up until his stint on 1991’s Shadows, he’s able, like Dave Grusin, to pull off both with much class, grace and elegance.
Unlike before, Benoit calls in Earth, Wind & Fire’s mighty Marcel East to collaborate on a few of Shadows strongest numbers on keyboards and drum sequencing, enough not to lose the premise of the album. Basically, East’s involvement here punches up what typically makes Benoit’s jazz a little less commercial friendly, throwing in some saxophones, guitars and iconic 90’s synth that gets Shadows on its feet. Benoit’s light piano touches mesh well with dancin’ grooves and horn support on Over The Edge, strings interlope from the get-go on Standing Still, with styles remaining gulfed on the latin-tinged Saudade and Already There, as if they were recorded these on an entirely different album.
Impressively, Shadows calls in more star power with the legendary Freddie Hubbard soloing on a few tracks, most namely his explosive solos on Saudade and Still Standing.
The title Shadows namesake more ominous though drawn-out piece with a soprano saxophone within from Michael Paulo, a trumpet solo from Michael Stewart while vocalist Valerie Pinkston suprises with a soulful vocal on Moments, some background touches on the aforementioned Over The Edge.
Benoit attempts a preface of sorts with various filler interludes that hardly do much without sequential listening, bogging the number of listenable tracks down to the standard 8-10. Any beginner to Benoit’s style ought to start here (especially for a $2 thrift shop find), look to (or past) the tie and embrace surprises that lay beneath those shadows.
DIGITAL VERDICT : 7.5 (C)
NOTABLE TRACKS: Over The Edge, Standing Still, Saudade, Moments
MUCH WELCOMED vocalist Valerie Pinkston’s touches
STILL some snoozers on here that has plagued Benoit’s discography in the past