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David Benoit

David Benoit is a very busy guy these days. He recently released his first all-orchestral CD, produced a tribute to the first Charlie Brown TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas and is getting ready for a Christmas tour with saxophonist Dave Koz. With everything the composer/conductor/instrumentalist has done, he is most proud of his classical-based CD called Orchestral Stories.

Benoit's orchestral CD was a labor of love for him, but there were two things that he had problems with in getting the release ready. He says, I finally found a record label that was willing to do it. One piece in particular, 'Kobe,' I have been working on for eight years, which is my symphony in six movements, a symphonic tone poem. 'Centaur and the Sphinx,' which is what I call a mini piano concerto, was written over a period of the last five years.

One track on David Benoit's Orchestral Stories was written shortly after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania. He says, '9-11' was composed about two weeks after the World Trade Center attacks happened. I was getting over the shock of it and kind of thinking about part of the horror of it, but also the heroics of the firefighters and how it brought our country together...how focused everybody was in trying to get the problem solved. There was a good feeling, as well, that we were able to do that.

With everything that happened to the Gulf Coast from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Benoit's 9-11 has just as much importance today as there was after September 11th. He says, Certainly it's topical right now with Katrina and Rita and the horrible tragedy that's happened. Once again, we as a country are mobilizing and a lot of musicians like Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. that grew up in New Orleans are organizing concerts and fund raisers. That's what this country is about and that's what a similar theme was with '9-11.'

Orchestral Stories is not the first time that David Benoit has written with an orchestral tone. He says, A lot of my fans liked the writing with strings and the melodic tones. Certainly a large majority of the fans like 'Watermelon Man' and the funky stuff, but there's another side that I wanted to explore. The orchestral side that has been touched upon in other records, but this is the full exploration of it on this album.

Since pianist Vince Guaraldi died in 1976, many people tried to interpret the music that made the Charlie Brown television specials different than similar animated specials. Benoit became the torch bearer when he performed the music that Guaraldi composed for the 1992 special It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. Since that special, Benoit has done the music for the Charlie Brown specials, both aired on television and released on tape direct to home. He says, Vince Guaraldi set the tone with his very hip jazz piano. Of course, back in '65 when that first aired, jazz piano was still in the mainstream of popularity and it has since gone away. So it's nice that we're able to do Charlie Brown to continue to feature Vince's music and keep it alive and fresh with new artists that are bringing new interpretations to it. Benoit is expected to do the music for an upcoming Charlie Brown special called He's A Bully, Charlie Brown that is expected to air in 2006 on ABC.

David Benoit continues to celebrate Charlie Brown with a 40th anniversary look at the first Charlie Brown TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. He says, What's different about this one, if you look back at the tribute, the first one we did for GRP was a collection of GRP artists. I was one of the few and I didn't have anything to do with the production of it. Then I did a personal record, 'A Tribute to Vince Guaraldi,' and it was more focused on him. I used mostly a trio format and that was produced by Tommy Li Puma. This one's kind of fun because it's the first time I ever produced an entire record. We looked for a lot of different artists--artists you wouldn't expect would be on a Charlie Brown record like Chaka Khan. We kind of stretched a bit, but what was so fun was to take all these different artists from very different styles of music and bring them into a setting of a traditional piano trio, acoustic setting and see what would happen. So that was what was very different and very challenging, but also very rewarding for me.

There are a lot of people who help Benoit on 40 Years A Charlie Brown Christmas. He says, As far as instrumental artists, we have Dave Koz, trumpeter Rick Braun, guitarist Norman Brown, bassist Waymon Tisdale, saxophonists Gerald Albright and Eric Marienthal, the Rippingtons and, of course, myself. Vocal artists, we have Vanessa Williams, Chaka Khan, Brian McKnight and Toni Braxton. With her, we did a song called 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year' and the original piece was really up-tempo, Andy Williams with a big band, and her message to me was make it more sexy. So we slowed it down and brought in Grant Geissman to play guitar. When she put her vocal on it, she just took it into a whole another like what it is, a wonderful time of the year...but this is another approach and it just was great. We just had so many great artists contribute to this. It's been really fun.

It is not the first time that David Benoit has performed on Koz' Christmas tour. He was with the original tour that featured guitarist Peter White and vocalist Brenda Russell. It is a rugged schedule with a great number of concerts in just around a one month period, and Benoit enjoys it all. What he does, from his solo career to working with the Asian American Symphony Orchestra, to doing the theme from ABC's soap opera All My Children, he touches people. He understands just how music influences a person's life and brings out all the characteristics of the human experience. David Benoit is a natural treasure.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Benoit
  • Interview Date: 10/1/2005
  • Subtitle: David Benoit: Music Touching People
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