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Jazz - Released May 29, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
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Jazz - Released January 21, 2011 | Masterworks Jazz

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Concord Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Givin' It Up finds crossover jazz icons guitarist George Benson and vocalist Al Jarreau teaming up for a breezy, enjoyably melodic session that highlights both artists' long careers. Technically a duo album, it is Benson's first since signing with Concord Records. As such, it works as a nice reintroduction to both artists and even finds them reworking the Bobby Womack classic "Breezin'," which Benson originally covered on his 1976 album of the same name. Here listeners get Jarreau adding lyrics and vocals on a version that really evokes the classic '70s jazz-meets-R&B sound that was an original hallmark of smooth jazz. In that sense, Givin' It Up is a true joy for fans of that more organic, song-oriented approach to crossover music, with Benson and Jarreau digging in to such great songs as Seals & Crofts' "Summer Breeze," John Legend's "Ordinary People," and Darryl Hall's "Every Time You Go Away." Also adding some unexpected fun and celebrity sheen to the proceedings is an impromptu appearance by Paul McCartney, who joins in on Sam Cooke's gospel-inflected "Bring It on Home to Me." Throw in appearances by trumpeter Chris Botti, vocalist Patti Austin, pianist Herbie Hancock, and bassist Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke, and Givin' It Up proves music is always fun with a little help from your friends. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 1, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 22, 1994 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
While George Benson's solid jazz reputation supposedly rests on his early John Hammond-produced Columbia albums, one listen to this disc will reveal that his interests roamed widely from the beginning. Yes, there is plenty of straightforward bop playing here, with Benson stretching his technical chops on "Hello Birdie" and "Myna Bird Blues" and ruminating thoughtfully on "Willow Weep for Me." But Benson also had an interest in quasi-rock & roll, producing Wes-like octaves on "Young Jaguar," and some Bo Diddley-in-Spain rhythm chording on "Bullfight." The young Benson sounds pure and mellifluous on three vocal numbers, the basic elements of his later successes mostly in place. Yet Benson's backing combo doesn't click on all cylinders; Lonnie Smith is reliable on organ but Ronnie Cuber's blunt baritone sax is rather cumbersome here. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 29, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

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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 /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 27, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 22, 1994 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The second of Benson's John Hammond-produced albums is far and away the superior of the pair, mixing down-to-basics, straight-ahead jazz with soul-drenched grooving. Suddenly Benson's backup group - same as that of Uptown, with Benny Green added on trombone now and then - has found its bearings and apropos to the title, they can cook, even sizzle. The effect upon Benson's own playing is striking; with something to react against, his sheer ability to swing advances into the realm of awesome. The rapid-fire work on "The Cooker" and "Ready And Able" will make you gasp. Only one vocal here, an exuberant "All Of Me." [In mid-2001 Columbia/Legacy reissued this 1966 classic, along with It's Uptown, recorded only several months earlier. Four bonus tracks include a (previously unreleased) doo wop vocal rendition of Little Willie John's "Let Them Talk" and two Benson originals that are pure rock-n-roll: "The Man from Toledo" and "Goodnight." Two of the bonus cuts are preceded by control-booth comments from the session's legendary producer, John Hammond.] © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
George Benson was only 21 when, on May 1, 1964, he recorded his first album as a leader, The New Boss Guitar of George Benson. At that point, the guitarist had yet to become a huge name in jazz, although many of those who knew him for his work with Jack McDuff's group (which he joined in 1962) agreed that he showed great potential. Benson still had some growing to do in 1964, but even so, this is an impressive debut. The guitarist had developed a distinctive, recognizable sound on his instrument, and he plays with both feeling and technique on five Benson originals (including the sly "Shadow Dancers," the exuberant "Rock-A-Bye," and the earthy blues "I Don't Know") as well as interpretations of "Easy Living" and "Will You Still Be Mine." Benson, of course, had an insightful teacher in McDuff, who plays both organ and piano on this hard bop/soul-jazz date. Tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, another member of McDuff's early-'60s group, is also on board, as are bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Montego Joe. In 1964, Benson's best work was yet to come; nonetheless, this album is historically important as well as rewarding. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released November 13, 2020 | Provogue

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Recorded at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in 2019, Weekend in London captures legendary singer/guitarist George Benson in an intimate performance that marks his first official concert recording in 30 years. Produced by Kevin Shirley, the album finds Benson framed in illustrious fashion, backed by a funky jazz ensemble, strings, and a horn section. In many ways, the record brings to mind his classic 1978 live album Weekend in L.A. and finds him reinvestigating many of his most beloved recordings. The album opens with an effusive take on his 1980 hit "Give Me the Night" that perfectly sets the tone for the vintage '70s and early-'80s soul-jazz vibes that follow. We get equally inspired readings of cuts like "Turn Your Love Around," "Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You," and "Never Give Up on a Good Thing." Benson also dips into his varied catalog, offering a rendition of Dave Bartholomew's "I Hear You Knocking" off his 2019 album Walking to New Orleans: Remembering Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, as well as a stirring take on Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto," which he first covered on 2000's Absolute Benson. Although 76 years old at the time of recording, Benson sounds as engaged as ever, even as his bright tenor croon has gained just a modicum of grit and gravitas in the years since Weekend in L.A. marked him as an R&B superstar. Weekend in London is a fitting showcase for Benson's smooth jazz skills and a further reminder of his soulful legacy. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 23, 2000 | Verve Reissues

George Benson is well embarked on the third phase of his career, and Absolute Benson, though unfortunately titled (it sounds like a compilation, but is actually an album of new recordings) is another in a series of consistently excellent CDs that characterize it. Benson excited traditional jazz fans in the 1960s and early '70s with his albums of inventive guitar playing on Columbia, A&M, and CTI, records that made him seem the logical successor to Wes Montgomery. Then, in 1976, he moved to Warner Bros. Records and recorded Breezin', featuring the single "This Masquerade," on which he sang, and suddenly he became a million-selling pop vocalist who happened to play guitar, seemingly the logical successor to Nat "King" Cole. That, of course, made him anathema to traditional jazz critics. After a decade, however, his pop success began to diminish, and by the end of the decade he was making another move -- to contemporary jazz. By the 1990s, he was restricting his vocal excursions to a few tracks on each disc, and his albums began to top the contemporary jazz album charts consistently. His move from Warner Bros. to GRP, a label devoted to contemporary jazz, confirmed the transition. Absolute Benson is his third GRP release, and on it he turns in a varied set, accompanied by Joe Sample on keyboards; Carlos Hernandez or Christian McBride on bass; Vidal Davis, Steve Gadd, or Cindy Blackman on drums; and Luis Conte or Luisito Quintero on percussion. Four of the nine tracks feature vocals of one sort or another. On the leadoff track, "The Ghetto," Benson (accompanied by five background vocalists) sings a few words, and on "Come Back Baby," he takes a real lead vocal, while on "El Barrio" and "Medicine Man" he only scats along with his guitar playing in his familiar style. But none of these performances is a conventional pop vocal performance. Similarly, Benson flirts with various pop music styles, covering Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto," Stevie Wonder's "Lately," and Ray Charles' "Come Back Baby" for elements of R&B and blues, while "El Barrio" has a Latin feel. But he employs these styles as flavorings, the main course of which always remains his melodic guitar playing. His lead work in "Jazzenco" is particularly notable, but throughout the disc he plays with assurance in a manner his fans will recognize and appreciate. If it is difficult to crossover from jazz to pop, crossing back can be just as treacherous. Benson's oldest fans, who later became his detractors, still may not be satisfied with his current approach, but it has deservedly won him a secure place in contemporary jazz. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 12, 2011 | Masterworks Jazz

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1969 | A&M

Just three weeks after the U.S. release of the Beatles' swan song, Abbey Road, Creed Taylor ushered George Benson into the studio to begin a remarkably successful pop-jazz translation of the record (complete with a parody of the famous cover, showing Benson with guitar crossing an Eastern urban street). It is a lyrical album, with a hint of the mystery and a lot of the cohesive concept of the Beatles' original despite the scrambled order of the tunes. Benson is given some room to stretch out on guitar, sometimes in a bluesy groove, and there are more samples of his honeyed vocals than ever before (oddly, his voice would not be heard again by record-buyers until he signed with Warner Bros.). Don Sebesky's arrangements roam freely from baroque strings to a full-throated big band, and Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Fortune, and Hubert Laws get some worthy solo space. Yet for all its diversity, the record fits together as a whole more tightly than any other George Benson project, thanks to his versatile talents and the miraculous overarching unity of the Beatles' songs. One wonders if the Fab Four liked it, too. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Concord Jazz

Guitar Man, George Benson's second offering for Concord stands in contrast to 2009's Songs and Stories, though is not an about face. While the earlier album focused on Benson's proven, decades-long formula for pop and smooth jazz -- a group of of easy grooving tunes featuring his silky voice and shimmering guitar work -- this set focuses (primarily) on Benson as a contemporary jazz guitarist. While slickly produced by John Burk, this full-length is an ambitious but readily accessible collection with lithe, languid grooves and stellar playing. Primarily arranged by musical director/keyboardist David Garfield, Guitar Man contains eight instrumentals, which include beautiful solo readings of the standards "Tenderly," which opens the disc, and "Danny Boy." There is a lush, balladic, string-laden arrangement of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" -- a consciously chosen reminder of Benson's work at A&M. Another highlight is his very contemporary but digified reading of John Coltrane's "Naima," which is simply gorgeous. It begins largely solo before the band enters halfway through, led by Harvey Mason's empathic drumming. The reading of "Tequila" here is warm, funky, and fun, with fine piano work by Joe Sample and percussion by Lenny Castro. Likewise, the reading of Arlen's and Harburg's "Paper Moon" displays beautiful interplay between Benson and Sample. Of the vocal tunes, the cover of Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" is the standout, but "My One and Only Love," with a long solo guitar intro, is very fine too. The set ends with two vocal tunes that contrast nicely. First is a very soulful treatment of the Buddy Johnson nugget "Since I Fell for You," with his voice and guitar accompanied only by Garfield's piano. Guitar Man finishes with Ronnie Foster's Latin-tinged groover "Fingerlero." Sample, Mason, and Castro star on the tune and Benson scats in trademark tandem with his guitar lines, sending it off in a contemporary jazz mode. As a guitarist, Benson is still at the top of his game; his musical eclecticism and his on-target accessibility are refined and equally reflected here. © Thom Jurek /TiVo