David Bryan Benoit was born in Bakersfield, California, on August 18, 1953. He studied piano at age 13 with Marya Cressy Wright and continued his training with Abraham Fraser, who was the pianist for Arturo Toscanini. He focused on theory and composition at El Camino College, studying orchestration with Donald Nelligan, and later took film scoring classes taught by Donald Ray at UCLA. His education in music conducting began with Heiichiro Ohyama, assistant conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic, and continued with Jan Robertson, head of the conducting department at UCLA. He worked with Jeffrey Schindler, Music Director for the UC Santa Barbara symphony orchestra.
He began his career as a musical director and conductor for Lainie Kazan in 1976 before moving on to similar roles with singer/actresses Ann-Margret and Connie Stevens.
His GRP Records debut album, Freedom at Midnight (1987), made it to number 5 on Billboard 's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. Benoit also says that it was his favorite album to produce, because it was when "everything came together," as he stated in an interview on SmoothViews.com. An earlier "live in the studio" (direct record, no mixing or overdubs) album on Spindletop Records, This Side Up (previously 1986), was re-released on the GRP label.
Waiting for Spring (1998) made it to number one on Billboard 's Top Jazz Albums chart. Shadows, from 1991, made it to number 2 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
Out of respect for one of his main influences, Bill Evans, he dedicated his 1992 album Letter to Evan to him.
Many of his songs employ a string section, most notably on his American Landscape (1997) and Orchestral Stories (2005) albums. He has said that it is his dream to release a symphonic album.
In 2000, after the death of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, he released a memorial album entitled Here's to You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years. Collaborators included the chorus group Take 6, guitarist Marc Antoine and trumpeter Chris Botti. He also did the music for "Peanuts" in the later specials. The album made it to number 2 on the Top Jazz Albums chart. An earlier cover of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy", recorded in 1985 for the aforementioned album This Side Up, enjoyed notable radio airplay and helped to launch the smooth jazz genre.
Benoit has arranged, conducted, and performed music for many popular pop and jazz artists, including Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons (he was involved with the band in its formative stages, and they often appeared on each other's albums), Kenny Loggins, Michael Franks, Patti Austin, Dave Koz, Kenny Rankin, Faith Hill, David Lanz, Cece Winans, David Pack, David Sanborn, The Walt Disney Company and Brian McKnight. He paid homage to one of his chief influences, Leonard Bernstein, by playing, arranging, and performing on The Songs of West Side Story, an all-star project produced by David Pack which achieved gold sales status. Benoit contributed to the Rippingtons's debut album, Moonlighting, which was named the most influential contemporary jazz album of all time by Jazziz magazine.
The Benoit/Freeman Project album was given 4 1⁄2 stars by Allmusic, the highest rating Benoit has received from the service, and the album made it to number 2 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart from Billboard.
Benoit's music can be heard during The Weather Channel's "Local on the 8s" segments. His version of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" by Vince Guaraldi is included on the album The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II (2008). In May 2011, Benoit began hosting a morning program at jazz radio station KKJZ in Long Beach, California.
Benoit has performed at The White House for three U.S. Presidents: Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush Sr. Other dignitaries he performed for include Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, former Los Angeles mayor James Hahn, and Senator Dick Durbin.1989: Every Step of the Way, Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance
1996: GRP All-Star Big Band, Grammy nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance
2000: "Dad's Room" from Professional Dreamer, Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition
1977 Heavier Than Yesterday (Blue Moon)
1979 Life Is Like a Samba
1980 Can You Imagine (Blue Moon)
1982 Stages (Blue Moon)
1983 Digits (Blue Moon)
1983 Christmas Time (Blue Moon)
1984 Waves of Raves
1986 To: 87
1986 This Side Up (En Pointe/Spindletop)
1988 Every Step of the Way (GRP)
1987 Freedom at Midnight (GRP)
1988 Urban Daydreams (GRP)
1989 Waiting for Spring (GRP)
1990 Inner Motion (GRP)
1991 Shadows (GRP)
1991 Waves of Raves (Blue Moon)
1992 Letter to Evan (GRP)
1994 Shaken Not Stirred (GRP)
1994 The Benoit/Freeman Project (GRP)
1995 The Stars Fell on Henrietta (Varèse Sarabande)
1996 Remembering Christmas (GRP)
1997 American Landscape (GRP)
1998 Some Other Sunset (Intersound)
1999 Professional Dreamer (GRP)
2000 Great Composers of Jazz (Vertical Jazz/Fine Tune)
2000 Here's to You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years! (GRP)
2002 Fuzzy Logic (GRP)
2002 Summer (3D)
2003 Right Here, Right Now (GRP/Universal/Verve)
2004 The Benoit/Freeman Project 2 (Peak)
2005 Orchestral Stories (Peak/Universal)
2006 Full Circle (Concord/Peak)
2006 Standards (Kind of Blue)
2008 Heroes (Concord/Peak)
2008 Jazz for Peanuts (Peak/Universal)
2010 Earthglow (Concord/Heads Up/Peak)
2012 Conversation (Heads Up)
2015 2 in Love (Concord)
2015 Believe (Concord)
1975 The Man Incognito, Alphonse Mouzon
1986 Moonlighting, The Rippingtons
1988 The Real Me, Patti Austin
1988 Lay It on the Line, Sam Riney
1988 In Full Swing, Full Swing
1990 This Is Me, Emily Remler
1992 Carry On, Patti Austin
1992 Tropical Pleasures, Kilauea
1997 The Body Remembers, Lorraine Feather
1999 The Dance, Dave Koz
2004 Choices, Brian Bromberg
2014 David Pack's Napa Crossroads, David Pack
2015 The Peanuts Movie, Christophe Beck