David Benoit (born August 18, 1953) is an American jazz pianist, composer and producer from Los Angeles, California. Benoit has charted over 25 albums since 1980, and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. He is also music director for the Asia Ame...
David Benoit (born August 18, 1953) is an American jazz pianist, composer and producer from Los Angeles, California. Benoit has charted over 25 albums since 1980, and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. He is also music director for the Asia America Symphony Orchestra and the Asia America Youth Orchestra.
Born in Bakersfield, California, Benoit grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles, California.
Benoit studied piano at age 13 with Marya Cressy Wright and continued his training with Abraham Fraser, who was the pianist for Arturo Toscanini. He focused on theory and composition at El Camino College, studying orchestration with Donald Nelligan, and later took film scoring classes taught by Donald Ray at UCLA. His education in music conducting began with Heiichiro Ohyama, assistant conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic, and continued with Jan Robertson, head of the conducting department at UCLA. Most recently he worked with Jeffrey Schindler, Music Director for the UC Santa Barbara symphony orchestra.
He began his career as a Musical Director and conductor for Lainie Kazan in 1976 before moving on to similar roles with singer/actresses Ann-Margret and Connie Stevens.
His GRP Records debut album, Freedom At Midnight (1987), made it to number 5 on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. Benoit also says that it was his favorite album to produce, because it was when "everything came together," as he stated in an interview on SmoothViews.com. An earlier "live in the studio" (direct record, no mixing or overdubs) album on Spindletop Records, This Side Up (previously 1986), was subsequently re-released on the GRP label.
1989's Waiting for Spring made it to number one on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart.Shadows, from 1991, made it to number 2 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
Out of respect for one of his main influences, Bill Evans, he dedicated his 1992 album Letter to Evan to him.
Many of his songs employ a string section, most notably on his American Landscape (1997) and Orchestral Stories (2005) albums. He has said that it is his dream to release a symphonic album.
In 2000, after the death of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, he released a memorial album entitled Here's To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years. Collaborators included the chorus group Take 6, guitarist Marc Antoine and trumpeter Chris Botti. He also did the music for "Peanuts" in the later specials. The album made it to number 2 on the Top Jazz Albums chart.
Benoit has performed at The White House for three U.S. Presidents: Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. Other dignitaries he performed for include Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and Senator Dick Durbin.
An earlier cover of Vince Guaraldi's Linus and Lucy, recorded in 1985 for the aforementioned album This Side Up, enjoyed notable radio airplay and helped to launch the smooth jazz genre.
Benoit has arranged, conducted and performed music for many popular pop and jazz artists over the years, including Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons (he was involved with the band in its formative stages, and they often appeared on each other's albums), Kenny Loggins, Michael Franks, Patti Austin, Dave Koz, Kenny Rankin, Faith Hill, David Lanz, Cece Winans, David Pack, David Sanborn, The Walt Disney Company and Brian McKnight. He also paid homage to one of his chief influences, Leonard Bernstein, by playing, arranging and performing on The Songs of West Side Story, an all-star project produced by David Pack, which achieved gold sales status. Benoit contributed to the Rippingtons' debut album entitled Moonlighting, named by Jazziz magazine as the most influential contemporary jazz album of all time. They also released collaborative efforts The Benoit/Freeman Project and The Benoit/Freeman Project 2.
The Benoit/Freeman Project album was given 4⁄2 stars by Allmusic, the highest rating Benoit has received from the service, and the album made it to number 2 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart from Billboard.
His music can be heard during The Weather Channel's "Local on the 8s" segments and his version of Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is included in their 2008 compilation release, The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II. In May 2011, Benoit began hosting a morning program at jazz radio station KKJZ in Long Beach, California.