Saturday, 11 June 2011

George Benson

George Benson (born March 22, 1943) is a multi-Grammy Award winning American musician, whose production career began at the age of twenty-one as a jazz guitarist.

Benson first came to prominence in the 1960s playing soul jazz with the likes of Jack McDuff. Benson then launched a successful solo career, alternating between jazz, pop, R&B singing, and scat singing. This one-time child prodigy topped the Billboard 200 in 1976 with the triple-platinum album, Breezin', He was also a major live attraction in the UK during the 1980s and continues to attract a large following today. Benson uses a rest-stroke picking technique similar to that of gypsy jazz players such as Django Reinhardt.

Benson was born and raised in the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of 7, Benson first played the ukulele in a corner drug store for which he was paid a few dollars; at the age of 8, he was playing guitar in an unlicensed nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights which was soon closed down by the police. At the age of 10, George recorded his first single record with RCA-Victor in New York, called 'She Makes Me Mad'.

Benson attended the Connelly High School, although he left before graduation. As a youth, instead, he learned how to play straight-ahead instrumental jazz during a relationship performing for several years with organist Jack McDuff. At the age of 21, he recorded his first album as leader, The New Boss Guitar, featuring McDuff. Benson's next recording was It's Uptown with the George Benson Quartet including Dr Lonnie Smith on organ and Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone. Benson followed it up with The George Benson Cookbook, also with Lonnie Smith and Ronnie Cuber on baritone and drummer Marion Booker. Miles Davis employed Benson in the mid 1960s, featuring his guitar on "Paraphernalia" on his 1968 Columbia release, Miles in the Sky before going to Verve Records.

Then, he signed with Creed Taylor's jazz label, CTI Records, where he recorded several albums, with jazz heavyweights guesting, to some success, mainly in the jazz field. His 1974 release, "Bad Benson" climbed to the top spot in the Billboard jazz chart, while the follow-ups, "Good King Bad" (#51 Pop album) and "Benson and Farrell" (with Joe Farrell) both reached the jazz top three sellers. Benson also did a version of The Beatles's 1969 album Abbey Road called The Other Side of Abbey Road, also released in 1969, and a version of "White Rabbit", originally written and recorded by San Francisco rock group Great Society, and made famous by Jefferson Airplane. He also played on numerous sessions for other CTI artists during this time, including Freddie Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine.

In 1985 Benson and guitarist Chet Atkins went on the smooth jazz charts with their collaboration "Sunrise", one of two songs from the duo released on Atkins' disc Stay Tuned. In 1992, Benson appeared on Jack McDuff's Colour Me Blue album. Benson toured with Al Jarreau in America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to promote their 2006 album Givin' It Up. He played during the second Monsoon Cup in Terengganu in 2006 and also Malaysia's 50th Merdeka celebration alongside Jarreau in 2007.[citation needed] In May 2008, for the first time Benson took part in Mawazine Festival in Morocco.

To commemorate the long term relationship between Benson and Ibanez and to celebrate 30 years of collaboration on the GB Signature Models, Ibanez created the GB30TH, a very limited edition model featuring a gold foil finish inspired by the traditional Japanese Garahaku art form. In 2009, Benson was recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts as a Jazz Master, the nations highest honor in Jazz. Benson performed at the 49th issue of The Ohrid Summer Festival in FYROM on July 25, 2009, and his tribute show to Nat King Cole "An Unforgettable Tribute to Nat King Cole" as part of the Istanbul International Jazz Festival in Turkey on July 27. In the fall of 2009, Benson finished recording a new album titled Songs and Stories, with Marcus Miller, producer John Burk, and session musicians David Paich and Steve Lukather. As a part of the promotion for his recent Concord Music Group/Monster Music release Songs and Stories, Benson has appeared and/or performed on The Tavis Smiley Show,[ Jimmy Kimmel Live] and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

He is currently touring and performing in support of his recent release Songs and Stories (Concord Music Group/Monster Music).

Benson has toured throughout 2010 in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim, including an appearance at the Singapore Sun Festival. He performed at the Java Jazz Festival March 4–6, 2011.

George and his wife Johnnie have been married since 1965. George recorded a song on his That's Right CD titled "Johnnie Lee" in her honor.

George Benson – Beyond The Blue Horizon

01. So What
02. The Gentle Rain
03. All Clear
04. Ode To A Kadu
05. Somewhere In The East
06. All Clear (Alternate Take)
07. Ode To A Kadu (Alternate Take)
08. Somewere In The East (Alternate Take)

George Benson (guitar); Clarence Palmer (organ); Ron Carter (bass); Jack DeJohnette (drums); Michael Cameron, Albert Nicholson (percussion).

George Benson has worn many hats throughout his career, from jazz-pop vocal star to soulful six-stringer, but his guitar god persona is probably exhibited best by Beyond The Blue Horizon (CTI, 1971). This album arrived five full years before Benson’s popularity would explode with Breezin’ (Warner Bros., 1976), and it presents this powerful instrumental presence in a no-nonsense, small group setting. Beyond The Blue Horizon is beyond what most instrumentalists ever achieve, and one of the crowning jewels in Benson’s discography.


George Benson – Body Talk

01. Dance
02. When Love Has Grown
03. Plums
04. Body Talk
05. Top Of The World
06. Body Talk (Alternate Take)

George Benson (guitar); Earl Klugh (guitar); Frank Foster (tenor saxophone); John Gatchell, Waymon Reed, Jon Faddis (trumpet, flugelhorn); Dick Griffin, Gerald Chamberlain (trombone); Harold Mabern (electric piano); Gary King (electric bass); Jack DeJohnette (drums); Mobutu (percussion).

Benson stretches out extensively on this recording, cut in a couple of days in 1973. He also wrote four of the five tunes, though often his composing here consists of laying down enough of a riff to establish a groove and then letting a handful of horn hits complete the job. “Top of the World,” “Dance,” and the title cut follow this pattern; “Plum” makes more of melody statement, cooking in a smoky, mid-tempo vein before jumping into double time, with Benson getting busy over a two-chord vamp.The six horns, arranged by James Brown vet Alfred (Pee Wee) Ellis, include musicians like Frank Foster and Jon Faddis, and succeed in sounding hot and funky rather than cheesy and contrived. While the liner notes emphasize the presence of Earl Klugh in Benson’s band at this time (Benson had recently met and hired the 19-year old), his presence on Body Talk is minimal; he can be heard playing recurring R&B figures in the background on “Dance,” and takes a 16-bar solo on “When Love Has Grown,” the album’s one cover, after harmonizing on the melody with his boss.


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