Birth of the Smooth: George Benson


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








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)







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