David Bryan Benoit (born August 18, 1953) is an American jazz pianist, composer and producer, based in Los Angeles, California, United States. Benoit has charted over 25 albums since 1980, and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. He is also music director for the Pacific Vision Youth Symphony (previously known as the Asia America Symphony Orchestra) and the Asia America Youth Orchestra. Furthermore, crediting Vince Guaraldi as an inspiration, Benoit has participated both as performer and music director for the later animated adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip, such as the feature film, The Peanuts Movie, restoring Guaraldi’s musical signature to the franchise.
David Bryan Benoit was born in Bakersfield, California, on August 18, 1953. He studied piano at age 13 with Marya Cressy Wright and continued his training with Abraham Fraser, who was the pianist for Arturo Toscanini. He attended Mira Costa High School. 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. 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 re-released on the GRP label.
Waiting for Spring (1989) made it to number 1 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.
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, after Vince Guaraldi’s death. The album made it to number 2 on the Top Jazz Albums chart. An earlier cover of 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, 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 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’s debut album, Moonlighting, which was named the most influential contemporary jazz album of all time by Jazziz magazine.
The Benoit/Freeman Project album was given 41⁄2 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.
Benoit’s music can be heard during The Weather Channel’s “Local on the 8s” segments. His version of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” by Vince Guaraldi is included on the album The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II (2008). In May 2011, Benoit began hosting a morning program at jazz radio station KKJZ in Long Beach, California.
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, former Los Angeles mayors Tom Bradley and James Hahn, as well as Senator Dick Durbin. (wikipedia)
Benoit was bitten by the jazz bug after watching a Charlie Brown special on television and listening to the music of Vince Guaraldi in 1965. “I was already a fan of the comic strip,” he says, “but when I heard that jazz piano trio, that was the defining moment when I decided that I wanted to play like Vince Guaraldi.” (press release)
Is it a Charlie Brown Christmas again for you? It is for David Benoit, the successor to Vince Guaraldi as the musical maestro for the Peanuts specials. It’s A David Benoit Christmas includes all your favorites from the animated shows, both originals by Guaraldi and Benoit and traditional tunes like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” (somethingelsereviews.com)
Tremendous fun, lots of memories, and great playing:
David Benoit is a well-known pianist, and when this popped up as a new release I had to listen it. First play through, there’s so many tracks that remind me of watching Charlie Brown specials on TV as a much younger person that it brought back a flood of memories. Benoit takes the themes we know and brings his own take to them, with a little shakeup here and there for fun. And fun is what this CD is, bringing toe tapping to the feet and a smile to the face. Yes, it’s Christmas themed, but this is a CD I will be listening to year-round. An auditory delight, with well-known music. (by Tim Parker)
Yes .. a real superb piano Jazz Christmas album .., I will listen to this album … on Christmas Eve this year !
David Benoit (piano)
01. Christmas Time Is Here (from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) (Guaraldi) 2.58
02. Skating (from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) (Guaraldi) 2.49
03. O Tannenbaum (Traditional) 2.25
04. Carol Of The Bells (Leontoyych/Benoit) 2.05
05. Christmas Is Coming (from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) (Guaraldi) 2.50
06. My Little Drum (from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) (Guaraldi) 2.56
07. My Favorite Things (from “The Sound Of Music”) (Rogers/Benoit) 3.24
08. Peppermint Patty (from “Peanuts”) (Guaraldi) 1.49
09. You’re In Love, Charlie Brown (From “Peanuts”) (Guaraldi) 2.11
10. The Christmas Song (Tormé/Guaraldi) 2.57
11. Pebble Beach (from “Peanuts”) (Guaraldi) 2.40
12. What Child Is This (Greensleeves) (Traditional) 3.29
13. Red Baron (from “Peanuts”) (Guaraldi) 3.41
14. Linus And Lucy (from “Peanuts”) (Guaraldi) 4.03
15. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Coots/Benoit) 2.28
16. Oh, Good Grief (from “Peanuts”) (Guaraldi) 2.06
17. Just Like Me (from “Peanuts”) (Benoit) 3.48
18. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Mendelssohn) 2.40
Interview taken fromgameonmom.com:
“Benoit tickles those keys and this is a definite masterclass on how to play the piano with feeling.” (The Jazz World)
“Accessible, adventurous and inspiring.” (Jazz Times)
The official website: