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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 January 1, 2009 | Concord Records

George Benson's sound is so recognizable that, in its way, it's quite comforting to hear his voice or his guitar come across on the radio or in a club. His recordings have been polished and extravagant in many cases, but there are those signature elements -- his relaxed delivery and silky touch on the strings and his voice, as evocative as a cool breeze floating across a hot summer night. Songs and Stories doesn't deviate from his formula a great deal, but it doesn't have to. He's chosen ten ubiquitous pop tunes from a variety of songwriters (and one by a relatively new kid on the block), and with the help of producers John Burk and Marcus Miller, he puts them across in fine style. The set opens with James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," with the great Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta on acoustic to contrast with Benson's electric. The tune simply eases down into the listener, and more than a desperate plea as it was in Taylor's case, this version is a request that offers plenty of rhythm -- courtesy of a beatbox by Butterscotch and Paulinho Da Costa's percussion. Another standout on the set is the slow strolling version of Bill Withers' "A Telephone Call Away," with guest vocalist Lalah Hathaway in duet, Gerald Albright's saxophone, and Bobby Sparks II's B-3 all adding to the band's textural palette. Following it is an intimate small-group setting of a cover of "Someday We'll All Be Free" by Lalah's late father, Donny Hathaway. Young Southern soul singer/songwriter Marc Broussard contributes "Come in from the Cold" to the mix. Benson is accompanied by Tom Scott on saxophones, guitarist Jubu, Miller's bass, and Sparks' Hammond, embellished by some nice Rhodes work by Greg Phillinganes. The reading of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night in Georgia" is unusual, and laden with strings, but it works because Benson doesn't try to create a definitive version of anything; he simply creates his own. There are also two fine surprises at the end of the disc: an excellent version of Smokey Robinson's "One Like You" with a large ensemble; and a downright funky take on Lamont Dozier's "Living in High Definition," which is sure to be a hit at contemporary jazz radio. Benson, Jubu, and Wah Wah Watson all contribute electric guitars, with Miller playing vibes as well as laying down layers of beats atop his own string arrangements. Benson fans should have a ball with Songs and Stories. It's consistently smooth in texture, its arrangements are elegant, and it's sequenced beautifully. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Concord Records

George Benson's place as one of the greatest and most successful guitarists in the history of jazz is secure, but what's easy to forget sometimes is that he began his career as a vocalist, and if this release, a tribute to Nat King Cole, comes as any kind of surprise, it shouldn't. Benson's and Cole's careers are remarkably similar, both becoming known first as instrumentalists, Cole as a pianist, and Benson, of course, as a guitarist, with both eventually easing into the pop mainstream because of their voices. Cole was a one of a kind vocalist, of course, and even Benson wouldn't claim to equal him as a singer, but Benson has a similarly soothing and lush tenor voice that more than holds its own on these familiar songs. The album is bookended by two versions of the Cole classic "Mona Lisa," the first a rare recording of Benson at the age of eight singing it sweetly and charmingly while playing ukulele, while the album closes with a full big-band, Nelson Riddle-arranged orchestral version that also features some sweet guitar from Benson. In between are warm, smooth, and soothing versions of "Walking My Baby Back Home" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," a bouncing and bopping "Route 66," and nice takes on "Unforgettable" (featuring Wynton Marsalis), "When I Fall in Love" (featuring Idina Menzel), "Smile" (featuring Till Brönner), and "Too Young" (featuring Judith Hill), all given the full big-band orchestral treatment from the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra conducted by Randy Waldman (Waldman also arranged several of the pieces here). It all adds up to a sweet and very impressive album, full of warmth and heart, and it swings where it should. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2009 | Concord Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Concord Records