George Benson: Finding His Groove In Inspiration
Inspiration opens with "Little Georgie Benson," a scratchy vintage studio recording of Benson as a child singing Cole's "Mona Lisa" at the young age of eight years old. In a recent interview, Benson shared the poignant story of how he was transformed the day his mother took him to a recording studio for the first time. "My mother found ways to encourage me in music. I remember going to the studio at the age of eight and I sang 'Mona Lisa,' one of my favorite tunes by Cole while playing a ukelele," said Benson. In listening to this particular recording of the voice of an eight year-old Benson, his voice soars with the pure expression and human sincerity of a little boy whose gifts reflect an early maturity as an interpreter of music.
Inspiration is like no other recording that Benson has recorded to date. The project is full of nuances and cutting edge production choices as seen by the featured guest artists selected to record on the project. In addition to several stars joining him as featured guests and fitting with the title of the project itself, Benson engaged a group of youth artists representing the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra to record the symphonic tracks for Inspiration. Selections include noted duets like "When I Fall in Love," sung by Benson and Idina Menzel, "Too Young," featuring a duet between Benson and Judith Hill, and "Smile," featuring Till Bronner on trumpet. Benson delivers an emotional interpretation of Cole's "Unforgettable" with a laid back bossa nova groove flavored with softened guitar riffs over a symphony of strings with an accent of a soaring horn feature performed by Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Benson owns this particular interpretation of the Cole classic as he shifts gears at midpoint from laid back to an infectious up-tempo bossa nova groove, complete with solid scatting, resulting in the eloquent creation of a hip, contemporary version of a timeless classic recording.
"Walkin My Baby Back Home" is a bouncy, free-spirited recording with solid horns and rhythm section backing Benson's pure vocal arrangements. In "Nature Boy," jazz meets classical music in this heartfelt ballad, where Benson shows his versatility in vocalizing jazz with a classical twist. Benson adds a bit of comedic input in his vocals on "Straighten Up and Fly Right," while delivering a funky, jazz performance running guitar melodies in the pocket. Benson inputs his mastery of the art of scatting, matching the melodic runs on his guitar in an up-tempo groovy rendition of "Just One of Those Things."
Benson shared this about the experience of recording this particular project. "I felt every moment of it. You can't put together a record like this without putting your heart into it. I got that from Nat King Cole. He put his heart into everything he did."
Inspiration reflects Benson's inner awakening as an artist, humanitarian and individual of intellect along with his inner musical evolution from childhood to present. Throughout the CD, he embraces and redefines Cole's catalog through classic jazz arrangements that are respectable and innovative in terms of modern musical standards while fusing in his heartfelt interpretations of the music making the project biographical in terms of the depth of the insight into the music.
In the middle of preparing for his new recording, Benson made a special appearance at an all star concert celebrating jazz as a global genre of music. Benson appeared as special guest where he took time to speak on the artistic consciousness and impact of jazz in America and the world. Just as he found inspiration in the music of Cole, Benson discovered that his own original catalog endures to awaken the spark of jazz artistry in youth talent of today.