Birth of the Smooth: George Benson

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George Benson has always followed his own path. Though that has meant he suffers the opprobrium of the jazz brahmanical elite he has elected to blaze a trail that unabashedly embraces pop music as an essential element of jazz. George grew up listening to Nat King Cole another jazz pioneer who was equally comfortable singing as he was at leading a small group of instrumentalists as a piano player of depth and originality. For George Benson there appears to be no line between silky pop crooner and swinging jazz guitar slinger.

What I have always loved about Benson’s jazz is that it is so accomplished. His playing which brings together scat-like runs, lightning-like picking and the most voluptuous rhythmic strumming is endlessly rich. He always surrounds himself with outstanding musicians and collaborators, most recently Al Jarreau but also Jack McDuff, Wes Montgomery, Lou Rawls just to name a few. His live performances are renown for their energy while his studio albums are always produced like fine art, with a familiar confident use of equipment and contemporary processes.

If there is a single word that comes closest to summing all of this up, it would be smooth. Smooth as in silky, elegant and sophisticated. Not in the sense used by snobs who label ‘smooth’ those artists whom they perceive to have ‘sold out’ or those whose music is somehow less legitimate because it appeals to a massive, diverse audience, not just a cabal of hard core jazz droolers.

Listen to Benson’s records if you want to understand what total artistic commitment to music sounds like. Whether it is in a hard bop jam session, a R&B duet, a funky workout with blazing organs and horns or a moody instrumental ballad, Benson is 100% ‘there’. Unlike some he doesn’t simply play his music in diverse settings, he matches his playing to the context be it blues, pop or virtuoso soloing.   With Coltrane I am blown away by urgent, desperate intensity. With Benson I am seduced by an incredibly multifaceted sexy woman.

The Washerman’s Dog team (of one) has pulled together a selection of wonderful enticements for your listening pleasure. Spread over two volumes you’ll get a glimpse of not only the many sides of this great guitarist but also his ultimate ‘smoothness’.

Go in peace!

 

benson front

 

Track Listing (v 1):

 

01 Push, Push

 

02 Hold On I’m Coming

 

03 So What

 

04 Ode To A Kudu (alt. take)

 

05 Little Train

 

06 The Wind And I

 

07 Shadow Dancers

 

08 Plum

 

09 I Got A Woman

 

10 Somewhere In The East

 

11 Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream

 

12 Billie’s Bounce

 

13 Let It Rain (featuring Patti Austin)

 

14 Benson’s Rider

 

15 Take Five

 

16 ‘Long Come Tutu

 

17 I Don’t Know

 

18 Myna Bird Blues

 

19 Shell Of A Man

 

20 Doobie, Doobie Blues

 

G.B.

 

 

 

benson2

 

Track Listing (v. 2)

 

01 Top Of The World

 

02 Mona Lisa

 

03 Hippy Dip

 

04 One Like You

 

05 Ode To A Kudu

 

06 Shape Of Things That Are and Were

 

07 Ready And Able

 

08 Givin’ It Up for Love

 

09 The Ghetto

 

10 Still Waters

 

11 Will You Still Be Mine

 

12 Black Rose

 

13 Witchcraft [live]

 

14 The World Is A Ghetto

 

15 You Can’t Go Home [feat. George Benson]

 

16 Man From Toledo [Bonus Track]

 

17 El Mar

 

18 Strings of Love

 

19 Serbian Blue (new mix)

 

20 Love For Sale

 

21 Mona Lisa (Lil’ George Benson Age 8)

 

B.G

 

 

 

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