Maybe the big daddy of smooth jazz, George Benson's
Breezin' reemerges as a great period piece and microscope lens focussed on the mid-1970s.
was the one of the first jazz recordings I purchased. The year was 1976 and I was a junior in high school. The LP (this was 1976, remember) struck me as being totally contemporary with the burgeoning Disco scene of the period while still being able to boast belonging to the genre "jazz". Now, Rhino Records has re-released this disc as part of their Warner Archives series. The sound has been cleaned up and several unreleased tracks have been added to sweeten the pot. The sum of its parts, "Breezin'" is a nostalgic romp through the mid-1970s, a perfect period soundtrack.
Added to the original disc are a smoothly heated "Shark Bite", "Down Here On The Ground" (bearing little resemblance to the much sampled Grant Green version) and the single mix of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade". These additions in no way change the tone of the recording. A crossover from the get go, Breezin' was a marketing coup de grace. George Benson had already earned his stripes as a jazz musician. Breezin' jettisoned him into hyperspace, providing he'and jazz'a considerably wider audience than previously enjoyed. The music overall has aged pretty well if for no other reason than we find our culture pining for the 1970s. This disc provides the perfect backdrop. The sonic are very good and this should be considered a welcome re-release of a classic.
Track Listing: Breezin'; This Masquerade; Six to Four; Affirmation; So This Is Love?; Lady; Down Here on the Ground; Shark Bite; This Masquerade (single edit). Playing Time: 57:41.
Personnel: George Benson: Guitar, Vocals; Jorge Dalto: Piano, Piano (Electric), Clavinet; Ronnie Foster: Piano, Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Moog Synthesizer; Phil Upchurch: Bass, Guitar, Guitar (Rhythm); Ralph MacDonald: Percussion, Percussion; Stanley Banks: Bass; Claus Ogermann: Arranger, Conductor; Jorge Dalton: Keyboards.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.