Like two bubbly streams of smooth jazz, two Grammy-nominated greats, pianist/composer/arranger David Benoit and vocalist Jane Monheit, collaborate on 2 in Love, an album that runs the gamut through Latin beat, ballad, Broadway, and more. They’re precisely paired so that Mr. Benoit’s deft, smooth touch on the keys and Ms. Monheit’s silky singing unerringly hit their target. It’s all too easy, with smooth jazz, to allow one note to slide into the next; not so here. Despite Ms. Monheit’s ability to smoothly transition between words, her enunciation allows us to here all of the lyrics. Similarly, Mr. Benoit’s smooth blending of chords never lets us lose sight (or sound) of individual notes. I’m come to this album as a fan of Jane Monheit; I’m coming away as a fan of both.
The jazz duo starts right in with a jumping Latin beat in “Barcelona Nights.” The song highlights how well the band comes together with Ms. Benoit’s fluid yet articulate singing and Mr. Benoit’s willingness to accompany as well as lead. This is an album that could have easily been ruined with ego, fortunately we sense sincere collaboration at every step. In presenting the true heart of jazz, this was recorded in live takes eschewing much in the way of edits, auto tune and other post-production “help” so often present in contemporary recordings. Given the variety of types of songs, challenging keys and the need for a subtle touch, it really is a tribute to their musicianship they could pull this off.
I love how the weaving of singing, piano (and the overall band) mirror the songs idea of getting this one dance on which we must take a chance. The singing and instruments converge to sonically weave among one another in this live cut. They pick it up a bit again in “Too in Love” with a beautiful introduction of her voice and guitar in step with the rest of the band joining together quite organically; you can’t imagine it coming together any other way.
We have another change up in the waltz-like “Dragonfly;” one could almost sense this being a perfect song at a wedding reception (if bands could pull it off as well as they do) whereas “Love Will Light the Way” would be more suited to a song in the ceremony itself.
I love the instrumental “Love in Hyde Park.” I haven’t seen a flute mentioned on the album, but my ears are going a bit dull if there isn’t one played beautifully here. This is a delightful bon-bon of a song that simply carries you away.
Once again the lyrics match nicely to the song in “The Songs We Sang” about a couple in the business writing songs and trying to resurrect their careers. This lovely, pensive song portrays that well. Juxtaposed to this bit of melancholy is the more exuberant “Fly Away” with Ms. Monheit letting loose, where silk meets power. We then turn the technically challenging “Something’s Gotta Give” with a bit of key change, changing meter and overall structure of pacing all being done with nuance.
The album ends with a gorgeous piano solo melding the love them from Candide wonderfully with “Send in the Clowns.” This combination is so artfully done you would think they’re at least from the same musical, if not from the same song. Sure there’s a change in pacing but I’ve heard larger within other songs.
2 in Love represents a lovely opportunity to hear two extraordinary musicians express their passion in an intimate setting. While you sense each one’s commanding ability (hence, the solo careers) you also sense the marriage of their work. This is especially impressive given that Mr. Benoit has not recorded a (mostly) vocal jazz album in the past (although he did cut his musical teeth as an accompanist which clearly shows). Well done. I highly commend this moment of jazz art for your listening pleasure.