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Jazz - Released May 29, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
All of a sudden, George Benson became a pop superstar with this album, thanks to its least representative track. Most of Breezin' is a softer-focused variation of Benson's R&B/jazz-flavored CTI work, his guitar as assured and fluid as ever with Claus Ogerman providing the suave orchestral backdrops and his crack then-working band (including Ronnie Foster on keyboards and sparkplug Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar) pumping up the funk element. Yet it is the sole vocal track (his first in many years), Leon Russell's "This Masquerade" -- where George unveiled his new trademark, scatting along with a single-string guitar solo -- that reached number ten on the pop singles chart and drove the album all the way to number one on the pop (!) LP chart. The attractive title track also became a minor hit single, although Gabor Szabo's 1971 recording with composer Bobby Womack is even more fetching. In the greater scheme of Benson's career, Breezin' is really not so much a breakthrough as it is a transition album; the guitar is still the core of his identity. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Pop - Released July 16, 1980 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
This is the peak of George Benson's courtship of the mass market -- a superbly crafted and performed pop album with a large supporting cast -- and wouldn't you know that Quincy Jones, the master catalyst, is the producer. Q's regular team, including the prolific songwriter Rod Temperton and the brilliant engineer Bruce Swedien, is in control, and Benson's voice, caught beautifully in the rich, floating sound, had never before been put to such versatile use. On "Moody's Mood," Benson really exercises his vocalese chops and proves that he is technically as fluid as just about any jazz vocalist, and he become a credible rival to Al Jarreau on the joyous title track. Benson's guitar now plays a subsidiary role -- only two of the ten tracks are instrumentals -- but Q has him play terrific fills behind the vocals and in the gaps, and the engineering gives his tone a variety of striking, new, full-sounding timbres. The instrumentals themselves are marvelous: "Off Broadway" is driving and danceable, and Ivan Lins' "Dinorah, Dinorah" grows increasingly seductive with each play. Benson should have worked with Jones from this point on, but this would be their only album together. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Pop - Released January 1, 1978 | 143 - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
Recording live at Los Angeles' Roxy club -- then a showcase for many of the hottest acts in pop -- was just the tonic that George Benson and his Breezin' band needed on this often jumping album. With unusually lively crowds (for a record-industry watering hole) shouting encouragement, the band gets deep into the four-on-the-floor funk and Benson digs in hard, his rhythmic instincts on guitar sharp as ever. The balance between vocals and instrumentals is about even -- George's voice sounds more throaty and soul-oriented than before -- and amid the new material, there is a revisit to a favored CTI-era instrumental, the lovely "Ode to a Kudu." This album also introduced "On Broadway," an extended stomping version of the Drifters' hit that would become Benson's climactic showstopper for years. The only superfluous element is the after-the-fact addition of Nick DeCaro's string synthesizer backdrop; the real Claus Ogerman-arranged thing would have been preferable if strings are a must. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 21, 2011 | Masterworks Jazz

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
For George Benson's second CTI project, producer Creed Taylor and arranger Don Sebesky successfully place the guitarist in a Spanish-flavored setting full of flamenco flourishes, brass fanfares, moody woodwinds and such. The idea works best on "California Dreamin'" (whose chords are based on Andalusian harmonies), where, driven by Jay Berliner's exciting Spanish rhythm guitar, Benson comes through with some terrifically inspired playing. On "El Mar," Berliner is replaced by Benson's protégé Earl Klugh (then only 17) in an inauspicious -- though at the time, widely-heralded -- recorded debut. The title track is another winner, marred only by the out-of-tune brasses at the close, and in a good example of the CTI classical/jazz formula at work, Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Little Train of the Caipira" is given an attractive early-'70s facelift. Herbie Hancock gets plenty of nimble solo space on Rhodes electric piano, Airto Moreira contributes percussion and atmospheric wordless vocals, and Ron Carter and Billy Cobham complete the high-energy rhythm section. In this prime sample of the CTI idiom, everyone wins. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Concord Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released March 1, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
In the wake of "This Masquerade," the balance of power shifted for the first time toward George Benson's suddenly marketable voice; four of the six tracks on In Flight are vocals. By this time, Benson was tailoring his tenor toward soulful pitch-bending à la Stevie Wonder on tunes as diverse as "Nature Boy" and "The World Is a Ghetto," and the unison scatting with the guitar that caught fire with the public on Masquerade is now pulled out whenever possible. Benson's backing band from Breezin', still set in its funk mode, is intact, and Claus Ogerman again contributes gentle orchestral cushions. The two instrumentals, particularly Donny Hathaway's "Valdez in the Country," prove that Benson remained a brilliantly inventive melodist on guitar, in full possession of his powers. Yet there is every indication here that Benson was set upon becoming primarily a pop star. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | A&M Jazz

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This A&M/CTI debut album by George Benson signaled the arrival of a true star in the jazz scene. Creed Taylor signed Benson immediately after Wes Montgomery's passing in 1968 -- he was being groomed for it by Verve's house producer, Esmond Edwards, and arranger, Tom McIntosh, before he ever came to CTI. Taylor paired Benson with arranger Don Sebesky (who had done plenty of work on Montgomery's A&M sides) and engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter (both members of the Miles Davis Quintet with whom Benson had guested earlier that year), bassist Richard Davis, and pianist Hank Jones were all guests. Benson's core band for these dates included organist Charlie Covington, drummer Leo Morris, and conguero Johnny Pacheco. The usual strings, supplemental horns, and backing voices in certain places (all Sebesky trademarks) are in place as well. All the stuff is here for Benson to fit neatly into the Montgomery mold -- except for one thing: Benson is a strong-willed artist. He wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to go and insisted on a certain amount of control on the date, and it's all for the better. This is one steamy little album that starts innocently enough with a lithe soul-jazz tune called "Footin' It," written by Benson and Sebesky. The flutes and cellos answer the head played by Benson. The strings fall in exotically as Benson begins to stretch and Covington answers with funk. Benson's guitar is not as smooth as Montgomery's; there is a defined edge in it and it's deep in the cut. Another interesting move was an experiment by Benson to use the Varitone device with Les Paul-like variable speed overdubs on his guitar. Covington alternately talks back and drones as Davis digs hard into the changes and keeps it simple but pronounced. Pacheco, like Benson, just goes nuts. By the time the strings and flute enter near the end your mind is already blown. Barry Mann wrote the cut as the theme song for a teensploitation flick called Wild in the Streets, and it was performed by Davie Allan & the Arrows. Benson turns it into a solid psychedelic soul-jazz number -- no grooves get lost; they just get under your skin. And so it goes through this set, from the radical revision of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" to Teddy White and Aretha Franklin's "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream," a sweeping, slightly Latinized soul number given full jazz treatment -- the only facsimile concession that Benson makes to the Montgomery memory on the disc. Sebesky's huge brass arrangements pump the tune into something really progressive and tight. Covington soars on it as well, but leaves plenty of space for Benson's righteous solo. Benson contributes his own nocturnal jazzy blues with "Shape of Things That Are and Were," as if to say "I'm not Wes; that was yesterday." Sebesky's horn chart is punchy and underscores the blues in the tune, and the guitarist plays a killer solo in a relaxed, open manner, seducing the listener for the closer. Introduced by a lonesome, blues-drenched harmonica playing solo, as if in a freight yard, Benson and Sebesky turn in a funky jazz rave-up of Boyce & Hart's hit "Last Train to Clarksville." Other than the overly familiar melody line, this cut just takes off, with big bright horns, Morris double-timing the band, Carter half-timing it, and Benson digging into both multi-string chord leads and single-string leads that he twins with Covington's organ about halfway through his break -- this is the sendoff this brilliant album deserves. Shape of Things to Come is the true signal of Benson's arrival, not only as a major soloist, but as an artist who refuses to be pinned down four decades later. He's a pop star, a genius guitarist, a singer, a songwriter, and even now his own man. This is an album that deserves its classic status and wears it well these many years later. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released June 18, 1993 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
By the time George Benson released Love Remembers for Warner in 1993, he had basically accomplished everything a musician could ever dream of: he has played with a who's who of jazz greats, scored big as both a jazz and an R&B artist, won numerous Grammys, and had his name become synonymous with two different radio formats: adult contemporary and smooth jazz. Long the bane of "serious" jazz critics, Benson didn't even need to think about it: he made music that communicated to millions from one record to the next -- the man had a single or album somewhere on the charts ubiquitously from 1975 until the turn of the 20th century! This 12-track set listed a number of fine producers on its roster including Bob James, Stewart Levine, Gary Henry, Jimmy George, and David Gamson, in addition to the man himself . The set begins with the laid-back funky soul of Brian McKnight's "I'll Be Good to You." Benson's voice and Wah Wah Watson's guitar twin intro lines in trademark fashion before gliding right into the sensual lyric. The interesting thing here -- besides the overwhelming infectiousness of the groove -- is what a fine singer Benson had become by this time. With Ndugu Chandler on the kit, William Bryant on the Fender Rhodes, Bill Summers on percussion, and McKnight on backing vocals, the tune is unbeatable as an album opener -- radio listeners thought so, too. "Got to Be There" is a romantic ballad with Benson in the guitar as well as vocal chairs, Melvin Davis holding down the big bank of keys, and Gary Henry handling the programmed loops and percussion samples. It's elegant, graceful and drenched in atmosphere. The old CTI gang gets together again on the Bob James produced instrumental "My Heart Is Dancing" by Omar Hakim. James Benson, Hubert Laws, Richard Tee, Randy Brecker, and Hakim team with relative newcomer Kirk Whalum on saxophone. It's an easy, mysterious groover with hip guitar work and horn charts. Another fine instrumental on the set is Whalum's "Willing to Fight," with James, bassist Will Lee, Hakim, Whalum and especially Benson all in fine form. This one got played like crazy on contemporary jazz radio stations at the time, and despite the dated sound of its production, holds up beautifully as a composition. Benson turns in another inspired vocal performance on "Lovin' on Borrowed Time," a mid-tempo soul tune written by Benson and John F. Hammond. A real surprise is the second from last cut, a cover of Ronnie Foster's "Lost in Love," with Phil Upchurch guesting on rhythm guitar and the composer on keyboards along with Paulinho Da Costa on percussion. A shimmering buckle shiner of a track, its groove is drenched in melody with Foster's keys hovering right around Benson's lead lines with Upchurch painting the backdrop with gorgeous chord fills. Love Remembers is certainly a solid high mark for Benson in the '90s, and anyone interested in Benson's brand of pop will be delighted with it. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released July 22, 1994 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | Prestige

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
George Benson's facile post-Wes Montgomery single-line and chord-accented style was well received in his salad days of the mid- to late '60s. Primarily self-taught and ear-trained, he made great strides in a five-year period around his native Pittsburgh, working with organist Jack McDuff on the East Coast chitlin circuit. As the soul-jazz and boogaloo movement was establishing itself, Benson was right in the pocket, as these seminal mid-'60s sessions perfectly illustrate. In tandem with saxophonist Red Holloway, the two Prestige label LPs New Boss Guitar and Hot Barbeque were initially reissued in 1977 on a vinyl two-fer, and now on this single CD. The first two tracks, "Shadow Dancers" and "The Sweet Alice Blues," sans McDuff though toeing the groove line, are the most original and modern numbers. The remaining tracks on the New Boss Guitar 1964 dates add McDuff, with "Just Another Sunday" a gold standard for the emerging style. Benson's balladic expertise during "Easy Living" is as impressive as in the different dynamic of the rompin' stompin' "Rock-A-Bye." From May Day of 1965, the title cut and original version of "Hot Barbeque" has become an all-time hit and ultimate groove biscuit. Drummer Joe Dukes is the difference maker, as his fluid ease in either swinging or mixing hard bop with R&B fifty-fifty effectively drives the band so simply. "Briar Patch" approaches rock & roll, while "Hippy Dip" shows a completely unified Benson and McDuff on a fun melody line. A most arresting high-register organ sound, near unearthly, surrounds an easy swing on "The Party's Over." In addition, check out the slow late-night blues "I Don't Know" (from the 1964 dates) and "Cry Me a River" from 1965. Although Benson would reach a zenith in his short career as a jazz musician during this period, before abandoning its purity for commercial pop singing, Holloway and McDuff went on and on and on to their own great acclaim. This is Benson's initial emergence, and a valuable reminder of how great he once was. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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Pop - Released March 15, 1979 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The success of Weekend in L.A. no doubt prompted producer Tommy LiPuma and Warner Bros. to give George Benson another double album (now on one CD) -- and this, like its three Warner predecessors, also went Top Ten. It is also, alas, slicker, more romantic in mood, and more bound by perceptions of formula than the others, fussed over in three different studios in earnest search of another hit single (the dance-tempo cover of L.T.D.'s "Love Ballad"). Most of the touring band, including Ronnie Foster, Ralph MacDonald and Phil Upchurch, is back, and Claus Ogerman's soft symphonic touch provides most of the backdrops, with Mike Mainieri supplying the orchestra on three tracks. Even at this point, the great guitarist is still given much room to burn -- the balance between instrumentals and vocals remains close -- and Benson comes up with some tasty stuff when the rhythm section pushes him on "Nassau Day" and "You're Never Too Far from Me." Ultimately there is just enough jazz content amid the velvet soul to keep guitar buffs interested. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | A&M Jazz

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This mysterious album was supposed to be A&M/CTI's last release but it lay fallow until 1984 when it came out on A&M's Audio Master series along with a bunch of A&M/CTI reissues. Why was it shelved? A subjective guess is that it just isn't that good; it's as patchy and disjointed as The Other Side of Abbey Road is brilliantly unified. Even the title seems like an afterthought 15 years after the fact. No personnel or arrangers are listed, but some of the tracks sound like outtakes from Tell It Like It Is; the charts have the same sharp reeds/trumpet attack. The best cut by far is Benson's own Latin-flavored instrumental "Durham's Turn." "Out of the Blue" has a rare acoustic/electric guitar duet under Benson's romantic vocal, and the great guitarist always comes through with something worth hearing when asked. Still, as Yul Brynner puts it in The King and I, a puzzlement. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Pop - Released January 15, 1985 | WM Japan

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
George Benson certainly is a good soul vocalist, fervently turning every phrase as if he meant every lovelorn syllable. Here on 20/20, though, he is shackled by stale pop/soul sentiments and one hack arrangement after another, assembled in no less than 17 studios! Russ Titelman, who shows only a flickering awareness of Benson's huge talent, is the producer, spelled twice by the even more commercial Michael Masser. The only bright spots are the tense high-tech title track and -- surprise -- an elegant Count Basie-like treatment of "Beyond the Sea," and with several jazz luminaries in the all-star band and Frank Foster and Ralph Burns handling the chart. There's only one instrumental, "Stand Up," and it ain't much. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released July 22, 1994 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released March 24, 1988 | CBS Associated

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
In Concert -- Carnegie Hall is George Benson's final recording for Creed Taylor's CTI label, and was mostly recorded on one night in 1975. There was some additional recording done at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in 1976, where Taylor replaced the original rhythm section of Wayne Dockery on bass and Marvin Chapell on drums with Will Lee and Steve Gadd, for whatever reason Taylor had at the time. Regardless, this is a solid "live" effort with Benson cooking on all burners, beginning with a monster version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," which had been cut on an earlier album and had become a staple in the live set. Organist Ronnie Foster's backing skills here are indispensable, as they keep Benson talking to the other members of the band. The version of "Summertime" here could have been recorded by Phil Spector. The concert version of the tune -- on which Benson takes a vocal -- has been added to with the substitution of the rhythm section and the later addition of a string orchestra in the studio. (Perhaps Taylor understood Benson's crossover appeal; he would cross over into the pop charts on Warner the next year with "This Masquerade.") The crowd dug it, but it's simply OK over the test of time. Hipper is the long snaky groove of Benson's own "Gone," with begins with the steady pulse of Hubert Laws playing a counterpoint foil on flute. The entwining harmonic interplay between the two is gorgeous and goes on for over ten minutes. The band then takes on Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive" with real aplomb. The Latin rhythm and slippery guitar by Benson pull the rhythm section up a notch before he begins the head. His funky articulation of fifths and then eighths in his break is mesmerizing. The way Chapell rides the cymbal like a bell is particularly satisfying. The album closes on another Benson original with Laws popping in again. It's called "Octane." Over ten minutes in length, it begins with Benson in full roar before the time signature changes and triples, feeling like a bebop tune more than anything else. Foster keeps it all grounded, but this baby swings so hard it threatens to lift off. In retrospect, listening to this record in the 21st century, it's difficult to imagine Benson making the switch from a classy guitar firebrand to a pop star so quickly. Mosaic Contemporary has brought out a fine remastered edition on CD. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released May 29, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
All of a sudden, George Benson became a pop superstar with this album, thanks to its least representative track. Most of Breezin' is a softer-focused variation of Benson's R&B/jazz-flavored CTI work, his guitar as assured and fluid as ever with Claus Ogerman providing the suave orchestral backdrops and his crack then-working band (including Ronnie Foster on keyboards and sparkplug Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar) pumping up the funk element. Yet it is the sole vocal track (his first in many years), Leon Russell's "This Masquerade" -- where George unveiled his new trademark, scatting along with a single-string guitar solo -- that reached number ten on the pop singles chart and drove the album all the way to number one on the pop (!) LP chart. The attractive title track also became a minor hit single, although Gabor Szabo's 1971 recording with composer Bobby Womack is even more fetching. In the greater scheme of Benson's career, Breezin' is really not so much a breakthrough as it is a transition album; the guitar is still the core of his identity. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Pop - Released May 18, 1983 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
In search of more platinum, Benson turned to one-time Atlantic Records ace producer Arif Mardin for support. Yet Mardin's best days seemed to be behind him, as this mostly routine package of period R&B backbeats, synthesizer rhythm tracks, and love songs indicates. Any competent soul vocalist could have fit in comfortably here. For jazz fans, Benson's albums at this point became a search for buried treasure, for his guitar time was extremely limited. But when you do encounter a Benson solo, hang on tight. "Love Will Come Again," otherwise a routine soul bumper, concludes with a magnificent solo in octaves that Wes Montgomery would have envied, breathtaking in its economy and swing. Also, check out the instrumental "In Search of a Dream" for proof that George Benson could still burn. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released June 14, 2002 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Preceding Breezin', his crossover smash for Warner in 1976, Bad Benson shows the guitarist still hanging on to his Wes Montgomery roots in places while stretching his soul-jazz persona into even funkier arenas. CTI had a formula for making funky, accessible jazz and fusion records that in 1974 still held true. Arranged by Don Sebesky, Bad Benson is a collection of delicious, varied, and sometimes confusing choices. Benson's own playing is precise and smooth as always, and guitarist Phil Upchurch keeps a large color palette for him to draw from, as in the funkified version of "Take Five." Other notables are the stellar "My Latin Brother," which begins as a Debussy-ian impressionistic string study before becoming a heavily arpeggiated variation on the samba. Kenny Barron's pianism here is the driving force behind a rhythm section that also includes drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Ron Carter. They give Benson a harmonic floor for one of the most inspiring solos of his career. These intensely meaty cuts -- along with Upchurch's stellar swinging in the pocket groover "Full Compass" -- are juxtaposed against ballads such as "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams" and "The Changing World," a pair of ballads that ape Montgomery's later snore-fest session for A&M. Not a great album, but a very, very good one. [Some reissues include three bonus tracks from the session: a hip and syncopated read of "Take the 'A' Train" (with truly surreal and shimmering colors courtesy of Sebesky's string section) and the amazingly driving, greasy funk of "Serbian Blue," as well as a simply beautiful -- and brief -- solo from Benson called "From Now On."] ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released May 27, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Apparently Benson got the message. Giving up the fruitless search for decent contemporary material, he switched gears and recorded an album of old standards with top-grade jazz musicians (including pianist McCoy Tyner and bassist Ron Carter) and Marty Paich's classy string and brass charts. With good songs to sing, Benson gives some moving performances, particularly on "This Is All I Ask," and there is a lovely reminder of his affinity for the Beatles, "Here There and Everywhere." Moreover, his jazz instincts were fully at his command; you'll hear some remarkable Latin-slanted guitar work on "At the Mambo Inn," some brilliant bebop on "Stella By Starlight" and "I Could Write a Book," and a stunning solo performance of "Tenderly" itself. One could read a bit of calculation into all of this; a Benson riposte to all those critics who thought he'd never play bebop again, an attempt by his record company to pander to an aging fan base. But don't. Enjoy the music, some of the best Benson has made in the 1900s. ~ Richard S. Ginell