Following the major sales and airplay successes of Benoit's previous GRP outings, Shadows is a more conceptual album, a collection that perfectly fuses the hip-hop grooves introduced on Inner Motion's popular track "M.W.A," with a lush orchestral approach. All without losing sight of the spirited composing and playing style that made him one of smooth jazz's biggest stars. Helping bring Benoit and co-producer Marcel East's chemistry to life are friends old and new to the Benoit studio fold: guitarist Pat Kelley; bassists Neil Stubenhaus, Nathan East, and Jimmy Johnson; saxophonist Michael Paulo; drummers Jeff Porcaro and John Robinson; and percussionists Chris Trujillo, Michael Fisher, and Fattburger's Tommy Aros.
Tab Benoit's latest release on Telarc, Fever for the Bayou, continues in what has become Benoit's signature territory, a funky, ragged blend of Louisiana swamp blues and East Texas guitar, with hints of funk, soul, and country thrown in to give the gumbo just the right spice. If it sounds like a formula, well, Benoit's jagged guitar playing and increasingly soulful vocals make it clear that this is the music he loves, so it hardly matters. He touches a lot of bases here, including an eerie approximation of Elmore James' slide sound on a cover of James' "I Can't Hold Out" (which also features some cool tenor sax work from Jimmy Carpenter), then conjures Buddy Guy on Guy's "I Smell a Rat," fires up on the old Slim Harpo chestnut "Got Love if You Want It," and tears through a wonderfully swampy take on Levon Helm's "Blues So Bad" before ending things with an acoustic version of Clarence Williams' "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" (made famous by another Williams, Hank Williams Sr.).
Louisiana journeyman swamp rocker Tab Benoit has been churning out an album a year since at least 2002, and between them he stays on the road playing every festival, club, and bar that'll have him. It would seem inevitable that the quality of these studio recordings would decline. But, at least as of 2007's Power of the Pontchartrain, that isn't the case. If anything, this might be the best of a very good lot, as Benoit again teams with Louisiana's Le Roux group (who once backed legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and helped on Benoit's previous release) for another 52-minute wade through muggy yet taut bayou blues. Part of the reason Benoit's recent albums are so strong is that he doesn't insist on playing original material, instead cherry-picking nuggets rearranged to suit his approach. This works particularly well here since he unearths terrific, often obscure material from writers such as Julie Miller (two tracks), David Egan (two others), and even Stephen Stills (a not entirely necessary "For What It's Worth").
On this 2006 release, Tab Benoit, the blues guitarist who throughout his career has embraced virtually every shade of American roots music, reconnects to his earliest and most profound influences with the help of some old friends. The thirteen-track set features Benoit's solid guitar and vocal attack supported by the popular Louisiana band, LeRoux, with the addition of special guest appearances by some of the most seasoned country and Cajun songwriters and musicians of the past three decades: Jim Lauderdale, Billy Joe Shaver and fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux.
David Benoit is one of the most accomplished pianists, composers and producers in the contemporary jazz arena. But now, with Orchestral Stories, his musical universe has expanded to include this incredible offering of symphonic/orchestral pieces all woven together by the brilliance only this musical genius can do. “Most of my fans know me for my contribution to the smooth jazz format. Over the years, within that context, I have experimented with fusing orchestral sounds, R&B grooves, and melodic piano lines. Orchestral Stories best represents how I have evolved as a pianist, composer and conductor.