Nothing short of a revelation, ‘Groove Time’ by super smooth guitarist Bennett B came out of no-where to be rightly regarded as one the best of 2014. In addition, in terms of the eagerly awaited follow up, it set the bar at a height that for many would not be easy to attain. However for Bennett B there need be no such worries as he has come roaring back with the newly released ‘Midnight Passion’, a collection of mostly original music that, in common with ‘Groove Time’, has been produced by the multi Grammy winning Paul Brown.
In fact all but one of the ten choice tunes is written or co-written by Bennett and with a line-up of supporting musicians that includes Jervonny Collier, Roberto Vally, Marco Basci, Andy Suzuki, Greg Vail, and Tony Moore, ‘Midnight Passion’ is, in every respect, an impeccable master class in contemporary jazz.
Take for example the wonderfully easy grooving ‘When Push Comes To Shove’ where Bennett’s cool playing is balanced by a feisty horn arrangement from the in-demand Lee Thornberg. The liltingly Latin ‘Buenos Aries’ is another track where Thornberg has input and he stays around for ‘Around The World’ that finds Bennett at his groove drenched best.
In all, Thornberg contributes to five of the songs and is particularly effective with the silky smooth ‘Selfie’ where wailing sax from the consistently excellent Suzuki is the icing on a very tasty cake.
Elsewhere Bennett conjures up some mellow magic with a rendition of the Lerner and Loewe standard ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ and although he finds space for a bonus track vocal version of ‘Get On Up!’ (from the ‘Groove Time’ CD) it is with the understated ‘Muriesque’ that he reveals a more gentle side of his musical persona.
In terms of personal favorites the extremely cool title cut is very hard to beat yet right up there with it is ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ where soulful vocals from the rapidly emerging DW3 really get the job done. However, all things considered, ‘Together We Stand’ might just be the best smooth jazz number you will hear this year.
‘Midnight Passion’ is a masterful album and one that places Bennett B in the highest echelons of contemporary jazz.