Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

5

George Benson & L'orchestre Symphonique Royal : Rabat, Morocco, May, 25, 2013

Mehdi El Mouden By

Sign in to view read count
George Benson & L'orchestre Symphonique Royal
Mohammed V Theatre
Mawazine Festival 2013
Rabat, Morocco

May 25, 2013

If ever there was an ambassador of jazz love songs, it would definitely be George Benson. At age 70, the guitarist/vocalist is still driven with heated passion to sing love ballads. For his second visit to Morocco, Benson performed with the Ochestre Symphonique Royal, offering a memorable evening to an audience predisposed to reviving Nat "King" Cole's repertoire.

Part of the Mawazine World Music Festival, the concert was held in the ancient Mohammed V Theatre in Rabat. The choice of this venue was perfect to host an orchestral rendering of Nat King Cole's hits. The lofty stage, the towering red curtains and the natural reverb enhanced the tribute's majesty.

As the only jazz artist in the Mawazine Festival lineup, Benson had to please an audience less specialized in jazz, but ready for the burning sensation of his strong, dramatic voice. In such context, Benson joined with The Moroccan Royal Symphony Orchestra. On this second performance with orchestra since 2008, Benson was at ease revisiting Cole's hits. Indeed, pouring old wine into new bottles was a successful method of enchanting a mature audience waiting for love to come back home.

With a richly nuanced voice, Benson opened the set with "Walking My Baby Back Home," veering next to the very smooth "Nature Boy." He then whipped the crowd up into a frenzy with a fast rendition of "Straighten Up and Fly Right." Marked by a fast tempo and instrumental virtuosity, the song was a total switch from the orchestral take to a more purist form of jazz, enhanced by Benson's scatting.

Back to romanticism, Benson introduced the Moroccan Choral group, putting it to work on songs such as "Unforgettable," "Mona Lisa," "Smile," and "When I Fall in Love," the latter performed in duet with soprano Janey Clewer in a operatic manner. This was especially well-received by the audience, who cheered wildly.

Benson knew his audience was dying to hear him sing his '70s and '80s hits, but he preferred to increase the excitement about "The Benson Party" by introducing "Rambling Rose" as a success story based on Ray Charles' suggestion to Cole to play a country song; he then made a smooth transition between Nat King Cole's music and his own, with a funky rendition of "Nature Boy."

For his party, Benson reappeared in a casual dress and grabbed his Ibanez guitar to release a flow of sharp sounds, announcing "Breezin.'" From that moment on, Benson impersonated the guitar man for the remaining funky songs, including "Give Me the Night" and "Turn Your Love Around," as well as some improvisation. He sang less, playing more guitar with a smashing force and emphatic sense of rhythm.

The crowd roared, danced and totally adapted to the changing mood of the soirée concocted by the versatile guitarist, bebop and pop singer, and overall entertainer.

Photo Credit

Sife El Amine

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery Live Reviews Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: December 10, 2017
Read The Brian McCarthy Quartet At FlynnSpace Live Reviews The Brian McCarthy Quartet At FlynnSpace
by Doug Collette
Published: December 10, 2017
Read Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre Live Reviews Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre
by Walter Atkins
Published: December 8, 2017
Read BAN BAM: Music Talking Live Reviews BAN BAM: Music Talking
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 7, 2017
Read David Amram 87th Birthday Celebration at the Falcon Live Reviews David Amram 87th Birthday Celebration at the Falcon
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 6, 2017
Read Christian McBride and Tip City at Village Vanguard Live Reviews Christian McBride and Tip City at Village Vanguard
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 5, 2017
Read "2017 Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland" Live Reviews 2017 Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Erik Friedlander At National Concert Hall, Dublin" Live Reviews Erik Friedlander At National Concert Hall, Dublin
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground" Live Reviews The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Jazzkaar 2017" Live Reviews Jazzkaar 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: May 29, 2017
Read "Stick Men at Havana" Live Reviews Stick Men at Havana
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 25, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!