Unlike most genre superstars, David Benoit never seems content to stick strictly with any pop formula for very long. While his hummable ivory spirit always shines through, his many attempts to shake and stir the typical expectations make him perhaps the most artistic pop jazz artist around. Shaken Not Stirred is thus an appropriate moniker for this wildly eclectic collection, which makes overwhelmingly effective use of orchestral grandeur (the enrapturing "Carmel"), and comes across more as a smashing musician's playground than a lightweight, radio friendly stab. he treads just enough familiar territory to keep old fans pleased but enjoys experimenting with percussive explosions, wild jamming, and traditional smoky club blues.
Guitar god Scott Henderson is a fusion fanatic's dream, by virtue of his wild yet fluid and even melodic riffs. Bassist Gary Willis lacks Henderson's range compositionally and as a player, but still manages to keep the proceedings grooving. Backed by the keys of David Goldblatt, Joey Heredia's drums and the percussion of Brad Dutz, the two form a powerful musical bond as Tribal Tech. Unlike their previous album, TT's new disc features more melodies (the best ones, "Peru" and "Signal Path" are by Henderson), the softening effect of Goldblatt's key soloing and a tighter tune structure and production all around. There's still lots and lots of improvising, but on the less memorable Willis tunes, it seems to go on interminably.
Guitarist Lenny Breau's short life (1941-1984) is a movie waiting to be made. Before his still unsolved murder, he was able to bring a new voice to the guitar by adapting country fingerpicking technique to the intricacies of modern jazz. A Breau hallmark was his highly developed ability to play bass, chords and single notes concurrently - in effect having a trio in his right hand. The newly re-released Complete Living Room Tapes, with clarinetist Brad Terry, is a 2-CD close look at Breau in peak form, circa 1979. It contains four new bonus tracks and presents a comprehensive picture of his influences and virtuosity.