Jazz luminary David Benoit launches new Henderson music and jazz festival


Henderson is jazzed to debut a new art and music festival. Art & All That Jazz will feature artists displaying their wares to the soundtrack of live jazz. It launches on Saturday with pianist David Benoit and 50 to 60 art tents.

The new festival replaces ArtFest, which also has been on Mother's Day weekend until last year.

"The promoter's contract was up and we decided, why not do something on our own?" says city of Henderson spokeswoman Nicole Johnson. "We've seen the ins and outs from behind the scenes. We've picked up on some things."

Indeed, Benoit is a coup. The pianist is internationally famous for taking the baton from the late Vince Guaraldi as composer of the music from "Peanuts" TV shows.

"I grew up watching the 'Peanuts' specials," Johnson says, "so it will be great to put a face to the music."

Although he's a serious jazz musician who has been nominated for Grammy Awards, Benoit (pronounced Ben-wah) takes his pop-culture association in stride.

"I'm a huge 'Peanuts' fan myself," he says, speaking from his home in Palos Verdes, Calif. "We all grew up with it."

When Guaraldi died of a heart attack in 1967, a succession of temporary replacements followed. Benoit -- who made his first dent in the jazz world with his own version of "Linus and Lucy" in 1985 -- debuted with the 1988 special "This is America, Charlie Brown." He continued until "Peanuts" director and creator Charles Schulz died in 2000.

"Our first introduction to jazz was 'Peanuts,' " Benoit says. "So when I got offered the job of writing all the 'Peanuts' music, it was huge for me."

Benoit, 57, is less fond of his other legacy: helping to pioneer smooth jazz.

"There was a while there that I was fighting that whole smooth jazz thing, because I'd been involved in classical conducting, and orchestration and composition and playing traditional jazz," he says.

"But as I've gotten older, honestly, I think what's kind of cool is that people who know me, know there's a lot more to what I do."

Beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Benoit will perform songs from his most recent album, 2010's "Earthglow," in addition to a tribute to his favorite jazz pianists (who include Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans), and "Linus and Lucy."

"It'll be a lot of fun," Benoit says.

Art & All That Jazz also will include an exhibition of the "Spirit Shadow" photographs of Robert Kawika Sheer, and Piazza Colori, an adaptation of an Italian street painting festival in which artists create ornate chalk drawings.

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@review journal.com or 702-383-0456.

 

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