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George Benson biography, concert and CD reviews
Sheet music by George Benson.
Article added in June 2000

 
Born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1943, guitarist and singer George Benson started to sing in a local nightclub when he was only eight years old. As a guitarist, Benson's primary influences were Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery. In 1962, organist Jack McDuff hired the 19-year-old Benson as an accompanying musician. Two years later followed his first album as a group leader, the hard bop and soul-inspired The New Boss Guitar. It was followed by others in 1965 and 1966, produced by John Hammond.
 
George Benson calls Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Hank Garland his guitar heroes. In the late 60s, Benson worked on heady Miles Davis sessions and also put a personal spin on the tunes from the Beatles' Abbey Road. In 1970, he was united with many of jazz's finest instrumentalists, including Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter, and Freddie Hubbard. He recorded classic albums such as Beyond the Blue Horizon. From hard bop and collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones and many others to R&B (Give Me The Night, Turn Your Love Around), soul and pop, George Benson excels in a variety of musical fields. In the 60s and 70s, he got worldwide recognition as a jazz musician. But his superstardom began with his 1976-album Breezin' that won him the Record of the Year Grammy. Breezin', which soared to #1 on the pop charts in America, was the first jazz record to attain platinum sales. The album also contained the Leon Russell-song This Masquerade on which George Benson scats to his guitar play. It won him another Grammy in 1976.
 
In total, George Benson has collected eight Grammies in his career. His awards include: Best Pop Instrumental Performance (1976), Theme from Good King Bad-Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance (1976), On Broadway-Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male (1978), Give Me The Night-Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male (1980), Off Broadway-Best R&B Instrumental Performance (1980), Moody's Mood-Best Jazz Vocal Performance (1980), Being With You-Best Pop Instrumental Performance (1983), and, in 1990, he was awarded the Honorary Doctorate Degree in Music from Boston's Berklee College of Music.
 
After This Masquerade followed other successes with his versions of The Greatest Love of All, On Broadway, Give Me The Night and Turn Your Love Around. He emphasized his vocals in the late 1970s and the 1980s. In the 1990s, Benson rejoined producer Li Puma and concentrated again on jazz. In 1996 the album That's Right was released and Standing Together followed in 1998. The album contained R&B and pop singing, hip hop and Caribbean rhythms. -  - Sheet music by George Benson. - CDs by George Benson at Amazon.com.
 
Absolute Benson album, 2000
George Benson's latest release, Absolute Benson (2000), is basically an instrumental album. Only three of the nine songs (song number ten is an unnecessary and monotonous remix of number two, El Barrio) contain vocals: his rendition of Ray Charles' Come Back Baby, Benson's Latin-flavored El Barrio and the remake of the late Donny Hathaway's soul classic The Ghetto. Benson's distinctive guitar playing dominates the album. Although not groundbreaking, Absolute Benson is a convincing album. Besides the remix of El Barrio, only the blues written by Ray Charles, Come Back Baby, is no joy to listen to. Absolute Benson is a contemplative and relaxing background music album with great compositions such as Jazzenco, Deeper Than You Think, Lately or Medicine Man. In fact, one has to mention all tunes (except the mentioned tracks eight and ten). On his new album, George Benson is joined by bassist Christian McBride, who represents the younger jazz generation. The pianist and keyboardist Joe Sample, who was a founding member of The Crusaders, and the drummer Steve Gadd are jazz veterans. Percussionist Luis Conte, drummer Cindy Blackman and organist and keyboardist Ricky Peterson are the other musicians on the album. Among the special guest musicians to record The Ghetto and El Barrio are Carlos Henriquez, bass, Vidal Davis, drums, Luisito Quintero, percussion. Claudia Acuña, Lisa Fischer and India provide the backing vocals. Richard Shade and Roy Ayers are the male backing vocals on The Ghetto.
Get the CD Absolute Benson from Amazon.com. -  George Benson sheet music / Musiknoten.


Absolute Benson, 2000. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

Talkin' Verve, 1968 (1997). Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

Breezin'
(This Masquerade), 1976. Get it from Amazon.com.
 

That's Right, 1996. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

Standing Together, 1998. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

Giblet Gravy, 1968. Re-released in 2000. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Sheet music by George Benson. - CDs by George Benson at Amazon.com.








Added on February 25, 2012: New album by George Benson released in October 2011: Guitar Man. Concord Jazz. CD Order it from Amazon.com or Amazon.de. Sheet music by George Benson.



Added on November 9, 2009
George Benson's album Songs and Stories
George Benson's latest album Songs and Stories offers what the title promises. Twelve songs and stories written by songwriters and storytellers including James Taylor, Rod Temperton, Catero Colbert, David Pach, Steve Lukather, Bill Withers, Roger Trautman, Marcus Miller, Tony Joe White, William Smokey Robinson, Lamont Dozier and others. George Benson's soulful, warm voice offers both entertainment and thoughts. My favorite song is Come in from the Cold. An elegant and quiet album. Decca, September 2009. Order the CD or MP3 songs from Amazon.com, Amazon.de or Amazon.co.uk.


Article moved here from Cosmopolis No. 9 of September 1, 2000 (move made on November 9, 2009)

George Benson: biography and review of his concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival

George Benson was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1943. At the age of 8, he began to sing in a local nightclub. His stepfather, Thomas Collier, taught him to play the ukulele and, later, gave him a guitar. Among George's early musical influences were Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery. But as a teenager, he played in a rock 'n' roll band before he returned to jazz. From 1962 to 1965, George was part of Jack McDuff's band which played a rocking blues. In 1964 Benson recorded his first album as a leader. The New Boss Guitar was inspired by hard bop and soul. More records, produced by John Hammond, followed in 1965 and 1966.

As other models on guitar, Benson mentions Django Reinhardt and Hank Garland. In the late 1960s, George worked with Miles Davis (Miles in the Sky) and even the Beatles, on their album Abbey Road, were he played the guitar. From early days on, it was clear, he would transgress musical genres.

1968 was an excellent vintage for George Benson. The Album Giblet Gravy, just re-released, unites some of his very best tunes: his version of Sunny, the title song Giblet Gravy, the ballad Walk on By, Tunder Walk, Sack on Woe, Groovin', Low Down and Dirty as well as the classic tune Billie's Bouce. In short: this is one of the CDs to buy! Get it from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk. Also recorded in 1968 is Shape Of Things To Come (check our German music page), an album of quieter tunes. Besides the title song, Face It Boy, It's Over and Don't Let Me Lose This Dream are convincing. The classic Chattanooga Choo Choo is by no means bad and Last Train To Clarksville is a pleasant country and western composition. The album Talkin' Verve (1997) is also dedicated to 1968 and contains songs from the albums Giblet Gravy and Goodies. Among them are at least six sensational recordings: Thunder Walk, Song For My Father, Groovin', The Windmills of Your Mind, Giblet Gravy and Doobie, Doobie Blues. Another must. Get it from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk.

Another album without kitsch and syrup is Verve Jazz Masters, Vol. 21: George Benson (1994), which unites titles from 1968 and 1969 (check again our German music page to buy it). Among the songs are Thunder Walk and Shape Of Things To Come, Sack O' Woe, What's New? and a refreshing version of the classic tune Tuxedo Junction.

In 1970, George Benson played with outstanding jazz musicians such as Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter and Freddie Hubbard. Among the classic albums he recorded with them is Beyond the Blue Horizon. Benson played hard bop with Herbie Hancock, accompanied Tony Bennett and performed together with Quincy Jones. Besides jazz, Benson also played R&B, soul and pop. His career reached its climax in 1976 with the Breezin', which won a Grammy as best album of the year. The title song was the first jazz recording to soar to #1 in the pop charts in America and established Benson as a superstar. The album's song This Masquerade, written by Leon Russell, owes its success to Benson's scat singing and guitar playing. It won him a second Grammy in 1976 (Get the CD from Amazon.com). For Theme from Good King Bad Benson won a third Grammy as Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1976.

After This Masquerade followed another hits with his versions of The Greatest Love of All, On Broadway, Give Me The Night and Turn Your Love Around. In the late 1970s and the 1980s, Benson stressed his singing. In 1990, he reunited with producer Li Puma and the concentrated more on jazz. That year, Benson was awarded a doctor honoris causa in music by the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston.

In 1996, Benson's too simplistic album That's Right was released. It offers cheap entertainment, kitsch at its worst, maybe with the sole exception of the title Johnnie Lee. An album to forget. Two years later followed the record Standing Together. Besides R&B and Pop, it contains Caribbean rhtyhms (Poquito Spanish, Poquito Funk) and is worth while listening to, a calm and relaxing ballad-album which favorably distinguishes itself from the plastic music of That's Right. Get Standing Together from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk.

George Benson's latest CD, Absolute Benson (2000), is largely an instrumental album. Benson sings only on three of the nine titles (number ten is an unnecessary and monotone remix of number two, El Barrio): on his version of Ray Charles' Come Back Baby, on the Latin flavored El Barrio written by Benson and on the remake of the soul classic The Ghetto by Donny Hathaway. Benson's unique guitar sound dominates Absolute Benson, which is no revolutionary CD, but contains in a way the quintessence of his almost forty years in show business. The only title performed to be below average is the blues Come Back Baby, written by Ray Charles. The contemplative and relaxing album contains (in the best sense) an ideal background sound and some outstanding compositions such as Jazzenco, Deeper Than You Think, Lately and Medicine Man. On Absolute Benson, Benson is accompanied by bassist Christian McBride, who represents the younger generation of jazz musicians. Jazz veterans like pianist and keyboarder Joe Sample, a founder of the Crusaders, and drummer Steve Gadd are part of the album. The band is completed by percussionist Luis Conte, female drummer Cindy Blackman and organist and keyboarder Ricky Peterson. Guest stars on Absolute Benson are, for the titles The Ghetto and El Barrio, Carlos Henriquez, bass, Vidal Davis, drums, Luisito Quintero, percussion, and Claudia Acuña, Lisa Fischer and India as background singers. Richard Shade and Roy Ayers deliver the male background vocals on The Ghetto. R&B, blues, soul, Latin-jazz and scat-songs, Absolute Benson offers all one expects from an album by George Benson. Get it from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk.

Concert review: George Benson at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, July 18, 2000
George Benson: voc, g
Thom Hall: kbds
Dio Sacedo: perc, voc
Michael O'Neil: g, voc
David Whitman: kbds
Michael White: dr
Stanley Banks: b

Right from the beginning, George Benson made it clear that this would be no Verve-jazz-evening. Already in his guest appearance with the sensational Diana Krall, who had performed right before him in the sold out Auditorium Stravinsky, Benson had dominated with inimitable R&B and soul style. He began his concert with the Seal and Dubin composition Standing Together, the title song from his 1998 album. For the following instrumentals Collaboration and Lately (by Stevie Wonder), he took up his guitar. The result was a too easy-listening beginning, almost a shock in comparison with the artistic heights Diana Krall had reached before him. But the majority of the audience had come for George Benson and more than simply appreciated his performance. But even critics had to admit that at least when he played his mega-hit Breezin', written by Bobby Womack, which Benson ended with a solo-scat, a sensational party had began. The sound was still a little bit too loud and with some of the - all well established and renowned - musicians one wondered whether they would survive unplugged. But the soulful Turn Your Love Around pleased despite the high volume. Benson's qualities as a live performer are unquestionable.

In Somewhere Beyond The Sea by Charles Trenet, Benson carried away the audience with his swinging jazz-pop. It was followed by the ballad In Your Eyes. The longer he played, the clearer it became that the guitarist and singer knows how to put a program together. From his latest album, Absolute Benson, he performed The Ghetto and El Barrio in a medley. After funky tunes he offered his interpretation of Ray Charles' famous ballad Georgia On My Mind. Benson's singing was at the top, but the band's sound was less convincing, always a touch too cheap. That is also true for Chuck Berry's Little Sweet Sixteen rock 'n' roll tune, which followed afterwards.

In Deeper Than You Think, the keyboard player was impressive, besides the always stunning Benson with his guitar. The concert became better and better. Cleverly arranged, one hit followed the other. The hit Masquerade, with Benson's scat singing and the outstanding keyboard player agian, fired the audience. As the band followed up with Give Me The Night, the Auditorium Stravinsky was out of control. As encores, the musicians offered Never Give Up On A Good Thing, The Greatest Love Of All and the funky On Broadway. Once more, George Benson had proved to be a first class entertainer who knows how to fire an audience. -
Sheet music by George Benson. - CDs by George Benson at Amazon.com.

List of the eight Grammies/Grammy Awards won by George Benson until 2000:
- This Masquerade, Record of the Year, 1976
- Breezin', Best Pop Instrumental Performance, 1976
- Theme from Good King Bad, Best R&B Instrumental Performance, 1976
- On Broadway, Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, 1978
- Give Me The Night, Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, 1980
- Off Broadway, Best R&B Instrumental Performance, 1980
- Moody's Mood, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, 1980
- Being With You, Best Pop Instrumental Performance, 1983

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.