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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 1986 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The transformation of George Benson, guitar icon, into George Benson, pop singer, is completed here, on While the City Sleeps, for there are no instrumentals at all on this hard-sell, synth-laden series of ballads and dance tunes. This is marginally better than 20/20, for at least Michael Walden's high-tech production (with added tracks by Kashif and Tommy LiPuma) has more punch, and the material, though still mostly lame, is easier to take. There is very little guitar to be heard, and what little there is can usually be found hidden behind Benson's scatting or the pulsating electronics. The best bet for ferreting out some strong guitar is on "Love Is Here Tonight," but it's deep within the mix. For those who care, an animated Kenny G turns up on "Did You Hear Thunder." © Richard S. Ginell /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 December 3, 1968 | Verve Reissues

Verve needed one more album from Benson after he signed with A&M/CTI, and ended up with a strange grab-bag in which Benson plays superbly throughout, whatever the odd goulash of sounds in back of him. Horace Ott's string arrangements are overbearing in scope and undernourished in tone; at times they don't even seem in sync with Benson's group. The big band tracks -- "Song For My Father" in particular -- are more tolerable, and the gospel singing of the Sweet Inspirations is harmless. There is one high-spirited Benson vocal, "That Lucky Old Sun," and it strikes fire. Perversely perhaps, the choice cut is a surprisingly hard-driven "Windmills Of Your Mind," in which Benson fights off the cheesy arrangement with some powerfully rhythmic work (watch out for the shattering psychedelic ending!). © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1972 | 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 /TiVo
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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 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 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 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
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Pop/Rock - Released February 23, 1995 | CBS Associated

This little-known CTI recording matches guitarist George Benson and Joe Farrell, a multi-reed player who mostly sticks to flute. Joined by a large rhythm section and sometimes two other flutists (including Eddie Daniels), Benson and Farrell play four originals by session arranger Dave Matthews, plus the standard "Old Devil Moon." This pleasing if not all that memorable instrumental date was recorded right after Benson's Breezin' (and before its release), ending the guitarist's CTI period right before he became a vocal star. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 30, 1996 | Epic - Associated - Legacy

This budget release from the French Sony Jazz Collection series showcases 12 tunes by guitarist George Benson during his tenure at Columbia and CTI Records. These tracks, recorded between 1966 and 1975, represent a more defined jazz direction than his late-'70s pop offerings for the Warner Bros. label. A few outstanding tracks include "Clockwise," "The Cooker," "I Remember Wes," and vocal takes of "Stormy Weather" and "Summertime." Although this compilation contains first-rate performances, there is nothing unexpected for the Benson collector to be heard. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 11, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

Jazz Moods: Hot is a budget release in the Sony Jazz Moods series that showcases ten tunes from Benson's residency at Columbia and CTI circa 1966 to 1976. It's an interesting mix of pop covers and jazz standards and brilliantly foreshadows Benson's smooth jazz and pop excursions that were to come later on in his career. And while every track here is of the highest caliber, there is nothing surprising that die-hard Benson fans wouldn't already own. Regardless, it makes perfect sense economically to purchase this over many of the more deluxe packages out there, especially if your interest in Benson is mild at best. © Rob Theakston /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 23, 1997 | Verve Reissues

As guitarist George Benson morphed from playing with chitlin circuit organ combos to becoming a pop vocalist, these sessions in 1968 formed a transition, and were a prelude to his works for the CTI label. There are five tracks each from the recordings Giblet Gravy and Goodies, featuring horn sections, takes on Top 40 hits, the funky go-go instrumental boogaloo sound of the day, and a slick approach to production values. Included as asides are a lone soul-jazz-blues number with organist Jimmy Smith, a lone jazz standard ("Song for My Father"), and a take on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" backed by gospel/R&B vocalists the Sweet Inspirations. It's certainly not the best Benson of any era but far from the worst, and does give insight into where he was to go in the commercial music world. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 15, 1984 | Verve Reissues

Most of the tracks from Benson's two Verve albums, Giblet Gravy and Goodies, were deposited here in one of the label's earliest CDs. As such, it exists to plug a small hole in the collections of Benson fans, for it is hardly a prime choice if you want a representative Benson sampler. © 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 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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Blues - Released April 26, 2019 | Provogue Records

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From his origins as Wes Montgomery’s worthy heir to the funky Give Me the Night, his cover of On Broadway, his partnering with Al Jarreau, his participation on the Gorillaz’s The Now Now and his tributes to Nat King Cole, George Benson has always shown that he handles large tasks with ease. But above all, he remains one of the best jazz guitarists of his generation, whatever the style. At 76 years old, the funky virtuoso from Pittsburgh pays homage to the Mecca of music, New Orleans, and two pioneers of rock’n’roll that were lost to the world in 2017, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. The record features ten covers by the two geniuses that George Benson performs with a sense of refinement. His bluesy style and ferocious skill are even held back slightly. In its place the guitarist offers a tribute of class, temperance and subtlety. ©Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released June 1, 1970 | 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
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Jazz - Released June 3, 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