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George Benson & Al Jarreau

George Benson is simply one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, but he is also an amazingly versatile musician, and that frustrates to no end critics who would paint him into a narrow bop box. He can play in just about any style -- from swing to bop to R&B to pop -- with supreme taste, a beautiful rounded tone, terrific speed, a marvelous sense of logic in building solos, and, always, an unquenchable urge to swing. His inspirations may have been Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery -- and he can do dead-on impressions of both -- but his style is completely his own. Not only can he play lead brilliantly, he is also one of the best rhythm guitarists around, supportive to soloists and a dangerous swinger, particularly in a soul-jazz format. Yet Benson can also sing in a lush, soulful tenor with mannerisms similar to those of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and it is his voice that has proved to be more marketable to the public than his guitar. Benson is the guitar-playing equivalent of Nat King Cole -- a fantastic pianist whose smooth way with a pop vocal eventually eclipsed his instrumental prowess in the marketplace -- but unlike Cole, Benson has been granted enough time after his fling with the pop charts to reaffirm his jazz guitar credentials, which he still does at his concerts.

Benson actually started out professionally as a singer, performing in nightclubs at eight, recording four sides for RCA's X label in 1954, forming a rock band at 17 while using a guitar that his stepfather made for him. Exposure to records by Christian, Montgomery, and Charlie Parker got him interested in jazz, and by 1962, the teenaged Benson was playing in Brother Jack McDuff's band. After forming his own group in 1965, Benson became another of talent scout John Hammond's major discoveries, recording two highly regarded albums of soul-jazz and hard bop for Columbia and turning up on several records by others, including Miles Davis' Miles in the Sky. He switched to Verve in 1967, and, shortly after the death of Montgomery in June 1968, producer Creed Taylor began recording Benson with larger ensembles on A&M (1968-1969) and big groups and all-star combos on CTI (1971-1976).

While the A&M and CTI albums certainly earned their keep and made Benson a guitar star in the jazz world, the mass market didn't catch on until he began to emphasize vocals after signing with Warner Bros. in 1976. His first album for Warner Bros., Breezin', became a Top Ten hit on the strength of its sole vocal track, "This Masquerade," and this led to a string of hit albums in an R&B-flavored pop mode, culminating with the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me the Night. As the '80s wore on, though, Benson's albums became riddled with commercial formulas and inferior material, with his guitar almost entirely relegated to the background. Perhaps aware of the futility of chasing the charts (after all, "This Masquerade" was a lucky accident), Benson reversed his field late in the '80s to record a fine album of standards, Tenderly, and another with the Basie band, his guitar now featured more prominently. His pop-flavored work also improved noticeably in the '90s. Benson retains the ability to spring surprises on his fans and critics, like his dazzlingly idiomatic TV appearance and subsequent record date with Benny Goodman in 1975 in honor of John Hammond, and his awesome command of the moment at several Playboy Jazz Festivals in the '80s. His latter-day recordings include the 1998 effort Standing Together, 2000's Absolute Benson, 2001's All Blues, and 2004's Irreplaceable. Three songs from 2006's Givin' It Up, recorded with Al Jarreau, were nominated for Grammy Awards in separate categories.

Benson began to see numerous reissues of his catalog material from his years with producer Creed Taylor on Verve, A&M, and CTI, from 2008 on. In 2009, he signed to Concord and released Songs and Stories for the label, and followed it up with his first primarily instrumental album in 35 years entitled Guitar Man in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, Benson released Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, featuring arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Randy Waldman, and at the age of 70, it was one of Benson's finest albums. ~ Richard S. Ginell & Steve Leggett, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Had the honor/privli l a g e of seeing these 2 - amazing talents - between Bensons guitar and Jarreau's voice-talent s that are rare
i love al jarreau!!!!
George Benson is no doubt a gifted musician, composer guitarist and vocalist. he is also a fabulous live entertainer. Love him on stage. Al Jarreau is one of our unique phrasers (I just made up that word); but you know what I mean. His unusual way of phrasing lyrics along with his different melodic intonation presents a very interesting flava to the music. I've always like him however I tend to favor his earlier works that had a more soulful bent.
chape0777
I attended a concert at Sun City South Africa.Georg e was who inspired me to come to USA
tinatalker
Another jazz great from my home town of Pittsburgh, Pa
Mr Benson has been one of my favorite artist for a while now. His smoothe natural ear for playing the Guital and singing is as a lullabye for the heart. You can tell he truly loves what he does, and wants others to love it too. As strings in " The Paradise".
Thank You Mr. Benson for engaging in music that I can listen to all the way through.
George Benson such a smooth guitar always great chord progression and use of chromatic runs. Mr Benson is the reason I began playing Jazz Guitar

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