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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | 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 October 1, 1966 | 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