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George Benson: Finding His Groove In Inspiration

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George Benson is a quintessential master of jazz whose professional musical career continues to flourish over decades due to his charisma, wit, showmanship and a succession of multiple hit record releases that are foundational in the evolution of contemporary jazz. As a seasoned jazz connoisseur, Benson stays in demand as a sought after performing artist as seen in his steady concert schedules taking to the stage in countries around the world. Simply put, Benson is on a mission to keep jazz current through his innate talent to innovate the sound of jazz both in studio and in the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: Inspiration: A Tribute To Nat King Cole

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Million-selling, hugely popular and readily recognisable jazz artists are a bit thin on the ground these days. So when one such giant records a tribute to another it's something of an event. George Benson's Inspiration: A Tribute To Nat King Cole certainly falls into that category: an album of songs from one of the biggest stars of the twentieth century, performed with due respect by one of the biggest names in the contemporary jazz scene.The album's opener, “Mona Lisa," is credited to “Little Georgie Benson" and features the 8-year-old future star on vocals and ukulele--an indication of how ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: Guitar Man

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At some point George Benson morphed from a guitarist who occasionally sang into a singer who occasionally played guitar. Benson's Breezin' (Warner Bros, 1976) launched his career trajectory to new heights based upon “This Masquerade," his only vocal turn on the album.But oh, what a vocal “This Masquerade" was. It propelled Breezin' to Number One on the pop charts and the album won multiple Grammys, including Record of the Year, and his recording formula was set for the next 20 years. The follow-up, In Flight (Warner Bros, 1977) featured Benson's soulful tenor vocals on four of the six ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: Body Talk

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With a title like Body Talk, and a lead-off track called “Dance," George Benson--a guitar-god-on-the-rise when this album originally hit shelves in 1973--makes it clear that this music is all about feeling the groove. While a good number of Benson projects on CTI benefited from Don Sebesky's arrangements, the guitarist needed a funkier feeling for this album, and Pee Wee Ellis was just the man to provide it. Ellis helped to create the sound that defined the music of James Brown in the late '60s, becoming an important presence as an arranger on Creed Taylor's Kudu imprint, making him the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: Beyond The Blue Horizon

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George Benson has worn many hats throughout his career, from jazz-pop vocal star to soulful six-stringer, but his guitar god persona is probably exhibited best by Beyond The Blue Horizon (CTI, 1971). This album arrived five full years before Benson's popularity would explode with Breezin' (Warner Bros., 1976), and it presents this powerful instrumental presence in a no-nonsense, small group setting. Benson worked briefly with the great Miles Davis, as a guest on Miles In The Sky (Columbia, 1968), and he opens this album by nodding to the trumpeter with an updated take on his “So What." ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: White Rabbit

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After three late-1960s A&M albums with mastermind Creed Taylor prior to the creation of CTI Records, guitarist George Benson hit 1971 running with two CTI debuts, issued a few months apart. Beyond the Blue Horizon was closer, in complexion, to his A&M recordings--harkening back, even, to his impressive 1966 Columbia Records two-punch, It's Uptown and The George Benson Cookbook--although the virtuosic, soul- drenched guitarist was clearly evolving as a player and maturing into one whose firebrand, virtuosic tendencies were becoming refreshingly balanced with greater maturity and restraint. White Rabbit was (and remains) an anomaly in Benson's prodigious ...

INTERVIEWS

George Benson: From Chitlins to Chateaubriand to Caviar

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In the summer of 2004 guitarist George Benson sat down unnoticed at the Baton Rouge Bar in Montreal and asked for a margarita. The Baton Rouge is a great restaurant haven for jazz goers and musicians attending the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, aka The Montreal Jazz Festival. It just so happened that, as my family and I sat down at the bar for an afternoon brunch, I looked over to my left and recognized Benson as the gentleman ordering a drink.

Benson was there to play at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfred Pelletiere, and ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Three Legacy Compilations: Hancock, Benson, Duke

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Three recent double-CD releases from Sony Legacy help to trace the development of jazz since the 1960s. A lot has happened. The three seminal figures featured here had a lot to do with the way things have turned out.

Herbie Hancock The Essential Herbie Hancock Columbia/Legacy 2006

Watermelon Man starts off this highly recommended collection of Herbie Hancock essentials. When you stop to think about the trials that we've faced through the years and how much this particular recording has done for us, it's hard to find sufficient words to ...

DVD/VIDEO/FILM REVIEWS

George Benson: Live at Montreux 1986

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George Benson Live at Montreux 1986 Eagle Eye Media 2005

This concert is a lot of fun for those who want to enjoy George Benson interpreting pop and smooth jazz. He's exciting, and he really gets into his songs. Solid vocals and smooth instrumentals carry the audience through moderate romps and lush ballads that focus on the leader from every angle.

Synchronized horns, varied percussion textures, throbbing electric bass and rhythm guitar surround Benson with layers of consonant harmony and mellow rhythms. The Montreux audience loved it. One look at ...

REASSESSING

George Benson: The Other Side of Abbey Road

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George Benson The Other Side of Abbey Road A&M 1969

I have to admit I have never been a huge fan of George Benson. I respect the man because he is an amazing guitarist with an extraordinary original technique. Yet his chosen sound and genre limits what could be some blazing work. So why what's so special about this album? Though The Other Side Abbey Road is a mellow disc that alludes to his famous '70s work, it is a very unique one that deserves more press than it has gotten in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: Irreplaceable

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The title is ironic now, since this CD was originally to be a collection of all vocal tracks, but the singer/guitarist dropped three songs on the early version and included two songs produced by Paul Brown, “Arizona Sunrise" and “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," the latter of which is quickly climbing the smooth jazz charts. Also added was “Take You Out," an instrumental cover of a Luther Vandross song produced by Rex Rideout and Bud Harner that's also included on an upcoming tribute CD called For Ever, For Always, For Luther. The three instrumentals show why Benson, at 61, ...

MUST HEAR REVIEW

George Benson: The Other Side Of Abbey Road

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I first heard The Other Side Of Abbey Road at a cozy coffee shop in Hollywood, California, early in my jazz discovery days. At the time, I was just recovering from a heavy overdose on the Beatles, having listened to all their post-LSD records almost exclusively for several months. I was ready for something new, and an album of Beatles covers was not exactly what I had in mind. Nevertheless, my curiosity was aroused once George Benson's velvety voice rang out across the cafe singing “Golden Slumbers" against Don Sebesky's schmaltzy backdrop of strings.

“Hmmm..." I thought somewhat dismissively, as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: Bad Benson

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Some tunes are so sacred that any attempt to cover them can only result in failure. Yet George Benson makes this mistake twice on Bad Benson ; the band can’t quite manage a groove in 5/4 on Brubeck’s “Take Five” and once again falter with a horrid disco version of Ellington’s “Take The ‘A’ Train” complete with fake train whistles. Creed Taylor should have offered rebates to anyone that could listen to these numbers more than once without wincing. However, the rest of the album is pretty good; Benson has always been an excellent guitarist, and there’s little here of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Benson: The George Benson Cookbook

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While the phenomenal success of George Benson’s Breezin’ (1976) album may have fattened his wallet; it led the guitarist down a path that dismayed jazz critics worldwide. Indeed, the bulk of Benson’s albums over the past 20 years have featured considerably less jazz and, unfortunately, more pop. Not so with The George Benson Cookbook (1966). This sizzling CD features the then young, hotshot string-picker on 14 swingin’ bebop/soul-jazz tracks. Benson kicks things off in rapid fashion with the aptly titled, “The Cooker." Not only does this track feature blazing licks from Benson, but baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and organist Lonnie ...



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