It’s always a great feeling of anticipation when you are going to hear new music from an artist played live for the first time, especially when the CD that has been in your rotation for several months has blown you away. You hope and pray that hearing it from the stage will be just as powerful and emotional. Well, I was not a bit disappointed by David Benoit.
I traveled four hours from Washington, DC to northern New Jersey to visit a long-time friend and to bring her to the Benoit show. It’s interesting to watch the expressions of someone who has never seen an artist in concert before. The concert was held at the Tarrytown Music Hall in picturesque Tarrytown, NY, nestled on the banks of the Hudson River. This venue was built back in 1885 and, with its character and charm, is a perfect setting for an intimate jazz concert.
David had his usual touring trio with him; Jamey Tate on drums and David Hughes on bass. Music from David’s new CD, Earthglow, kicked things off in the first set. “Will’s Chill,” inspired by will.i.am, was the perfect choice for an opener. David was so on fire on the Steinway, and his band, who was also on the CD, was killer. Moving right into “New Creation,” David seemed quite pleased with the crowd reaction to the new music, and understandably so. The audience loved every note. “Downtime,” Benoit’s personal favorite of the new CD, is an intimate piece with a waltz melody. The tempo changes throughout this song and really grabs you in. The final song played from Earthglow was “Sneaky as a Cat.” This tune had everyone moving, especially bassist David Hughes. He was grooving right along! On the CD recording, Tim Weisberg provides the flute that carries you through this tune alongside David’s piano. It was very cool to hear that sound reincarnated by David through the keyboard sitting atop the Steinway. The band was so relaxed and having so much fun on stage, which, as we concert goers know, is infectious. The crowd just fed off of that energy the entire night.
Going back to David’s last CD, Heroes, we were offered great renditions of “Mountain Dance,” “Your Song,” “If I Were A Bell,” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Again, these were played with even more emotion and passion than in other concerts I have been to over the last year or two. It was if Benoit had hit his stride this evening!
After a 15 minute intermission, when the venue sold out of the new CD, David and the band took the stage once again. This set brought us some old favorites that are the foundation of David’s career. “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” opened the second half, followed by the always sentimental, “Kei’s Song,” written for David’s wife of 25 years. Reaching farther back into his library, “Every Step of the Way,” “Waiting for Spring,” and “Cabin Fever” were a joy to hear. David was so relaxed and in a zone as he moved into the very emotionally charged, “Dad’s Room” from his Professional Dreamer CD. It had been a while since I heard him play this live, and still has the same powerful effect.
Then the band really kicked in with Jamey Tate laying down the beat on “Freedom at Midnight: The Schroeder Variations.” David had done this version in concert before, but really perfected it for his Earthglow CD recording. The classic “Freedom at Midnight” is interspersed with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” as played by the Peanuts’ character, Schroeder. David was in full Schroeder-mode as he huddled over the piano for this beautiful, classical melody, and then would fly into high gear with “Freedom at Midnight.” It was truly genius and amazing to watch, and the audience responded enthusiastically with a standing ovation. The high energy and powerful playing by all three never ended as they segued into the finale of “Beat Street” from the Full Circle CD. What a finish! But then came the favorite encore of “Linus and Lucy.” The crowd was on their feet once again cheering on this signature tune.
It was the end of what I have to say was one of the best David Benoit concerts this reviewer has ever seen (and there have been MANY!). The relaxed, yet passionate, high energy feeling from the stage fed into the crowd for nearly two hours of nothing but Benoit and his band. This trumps package tours any day of the week! My immediate feeling after this show was that David Benoit is at the top of his game! Do NOT miss this show if it comes anywhere near your area…then again, four hour road trips are very worth it, too!