|The Sweet Alice Blues
|I Don't Know
|Just Another Sunday
|Will You Still Be Mine?
|My Three Sons [*]
|Jazz / Soul-Jazz, Hard Bop
George Benson - Guitar
Chris Albertson Liner Notes
Don Schlitten Photography
Jack McDuff - Organ, Keyboards, Piano
Joe Dukes - Drums
Lew Futterman Producer
Montego Joe Percussion, Drums
Phil DeLancie Digital Remastering
Red Holloway - Sax (Tenor)
Ronnie Boykins Bass,
Discounting a pair of vocals made when he was 11 years old, this is George Benson's first recording as a leader. In 1964, he was sideman and rapidly developing guitarist in the versatile combo of organist Jack McDuff, and it is McDuff's band that backs Benson here. McDuff has been quoted as saying that Benson was so raw when he hired him that although he could play the blues, he didn't know any complete tune. By the time of his album, Benson the fast learner had eliminated that deficiency, as can be plainly heard in the two standards here. He still had some developing to do, but he had become the peer of McDuff and the veteran tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, quite an accomplishment for a young man of 21.
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 Benson 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. Originally released on LP by Prestige, The New Boss Guitar of George Benson was reissued on CD for Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics series in 1990 (where Fantasy added "My Three Sons," a driving bonus track that finds Benson, McDuff and Holloway appearing on drummer Joe Dukes' The Soulful Drums session of May 14, 1964). In 1964, Benson's best work was yet to come -- nonetheless, this album is historically important as well as rewarding. ~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
Active Decades: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s
Born: Mar 22, 1943 in Pittsburgh, PA
Styles: Fusion, Hard Bop, Jazz-Pop, Contemporary Jazz, Crossover Jazz, Quiet Storm, Smooth Jazz
George Benson is simply one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, but he is also an amazingly versatile musician, and that frustrates to no end critics who would paint him into a narrow bop box. He can play in just about any style -- from swing to bop to R&B to pop -- with supreme taste, a beautiful rounded tone, terrific speed, a marvelous sense of logic in building solos, and, always, an unquenchable urge to swing. His inspirations may have been Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery -- and he can do dead-on impressions of both -- but his style is completely his own. Not only can he play lead brilliantly, he is also one of the best rhythm guitarists around, supportive to soloists and a dangerous swinger, particularly in a soul-jazz format. Yet Benson can also sing in a lush soulful tenor with mannerisms similar to those of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and it is his voice that has proved to be more marketable to the public than his guitar. Benson is the guitar-playing equivalent of Nat King Cole -- a fantastic pianist whose smooth way with a pop vocal eventually eclipsed his instrumental prowess in the marketplace -- but unlike Cole, Benson has been granted enough time after his fling with the pop charts to reaffirm his jazz guitar credentials, which he still does at his concerts.
Benson actually started out professionally as a singer, performing in nightclubs at eight, recording four sides for RCA's X label in 1954, forming a rock band at 17 while using a guitar that his stepfather made for him. Exposure to records by Christian, Montgomery, and Charlie Parker got him interested in jazz, and by 1962, the teenaged Benson was playing in Brother Jack McDuff's band. After forming his own group in 1965, Benson became another of talent scout John Hammond's major discoveries, recording two highly regarded albums of soul-jazz and hard bop for Columbia and turning up on several records by others, including Miles Davis' Miles in the Sky. He switched to Verve in 1967, and, shortly after the death of Montgomery in June 1968, producer Creed Taylor began recording Benson with larger ensembles on A&M (1968-1969) and big groups and all-star combos on CTI (1971-1976).
While the A&M and CTI albums certainly earned their keep and made Benson a guitar star in the jazz world, the mass market didn't catch on until he began to emphasize vocals after signing with Warner Bros. in 1976. His first album for Warner Bros., Breezin', became a Top Ten hit on the strength of its sole vocal track, "This Masquerade," and this led to a string of hit albums in an R&B-flavored pop mode, culminating with the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me the Night. As the '80s wore on, though, Benson's albums became riddled with commercial formulas and inferior material, with his guitar almost entirely relegated to the background. Perhaps aware of the futility of chasing the charts (after all, "This Masquerade" was a lucky accident), Benson reversed his field late in the '80s to record a fine album of standards, Tenderly, and another with the Basie band, his guitar now featured more prominently. His pop-flavored work also improved noticeably in the '90s. Benson retains the ability to spring surprises on his fans and critics, like his dazzlingly idiomatic TV appearance and subsequent record date with Benny Goodman in 1975 in honor of John Hammond, and his awesome command of the moment at several Playboy Jazz Festivals in the 1980s. His latter-day recordings include the 1998 effort Standing Together, 2000's Absolute Benson, 2001's All Blues, and 2004's Irreplaceable. Three songs from 2006's Givin' It Up, recorded with Al Jarreau, were nominated for Grammy Awards in separate categories.
---Richard S. Ginell, All Music Guide
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